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area handbook series 


a country study 


a country study 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Edited by Helen Chapin Metz 
Research Completed 
December 1987 

On the cover: Beduins approaching a Libyan oasis 

Fourth Edition, 1989; First Printing, 1989. 

Copyright ®1989 United States Government as represented by 
the Secretary of the Army. All rights reserved. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Libya: a country study. 

(Area handbook series) (DA pam.; 550-85) 
"Research completed September 1987." 
Bibliography: pp. 305-324. 
Includes index. 

1. Libya. I. Metz, Helen Chapin, 1928- . II. Library of 
Congress. Federal Research Division. III. Series. 

DT215.L533 1988 961'. 2 88-600480 

Headquarters, Department of the Army 
DA Pam 550-85 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 


This volume is one in a continuing series of books now being 
prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Con- 
gress under the Country Studies — Area Handbook Program. The 
last page of this book lists the other published studies. 

Most books in the series deal with a particular foreign country, 
describing and analyzing its political, economic, social, and national 
security systems and institutions, and examining the interrelation- 
ships of those systems and the ways they are shaped by cultural 
factors. Each study is written by a multidisciplinary team of social 
scientists. The authors seek to provide a basic understanding of 
the observed society, striving for a dynamic rather than a static 
portrayal. Particular attention is devoted to the people who make 
up the society, their origins, dominant beliefs and values, their com- 
mon interests and the issues on which they are divided, the nature 
and extent of their involvement with national institutions, and their 
attitudes toward each other and toward their social system and 
political order. 

The books represent the analysis of the authors and should not 
be construed as an expression of an official United States govern- 
ment position, policy, or decision. The authors have sought to 
adhere to accepted standards of scholarly objectivity. Corrections, 
additions, and suggestions for changes from readers will be wel- 
comed for use in future editions. 

Carol Migdalovitz 
Acting Chief 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Washington, D.C. 20540 



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of the fol- 
lowing individuals who wrote the 1979 edition of Libya: A Country 
Study, which was edited by Harold D. Nelson: Robert Rinehart, 
"Historical Setting"; David S. McMorris, "The Society and Its 
Environment"; Howard I. Blutstein, "The Economy"; William A. 
Mussen, Jr., "Government and Politics"; and David R. Holmes 
and Harold D. Nelson, "National Security." Their work provided 
the organization and structure of the present volume, as well as 
substantial portions of the text. 

The authors are grateful to individuals in various government 
agencies and private institutions who gave of their time, research 
materials, and expertise to the production of this book, especially 
Marius and Mary Jane Deeb and I. William Zartman. The authors 
also wish to thank members of the Federal Research Division staff 
who contributed directly to the preparation of the manuscript. These 
people include Thomas Collelo, the substantive reviewer of all the 
textual material; Richard F. Nyrop, who reviewed all drafts and 
served as liaison with the sponsoring agency; and Martha E. 
Hopkins, who edited the manuscript, with the assistance of Marilyn 
L. Majeska, and managed book production. Mary Campbell Wild 
performed final prepublication review. Also involved in prepar- 
ing the text were editorial assistants Barbara Edgerton, Monica 
Shimmin, and Izella Watson. Mary Bodnar of Communicators 
Connections compiled the index. Malinda B. Neale of the Library 
of Congress Composing Unit set the type, under the direction of 
Peggy Pixley. 

Invaluable graphics support was provided by David P. Cabitto, 
assisted by Sandra K. Cotugno. Carolina E. Forrester reviewed 
the map drafts and Greenhorne and O'Mara, Inc., prepared the 
final maps. Special thanks are owed to Kimberly A. Lord, who 
designed the cover artwork and the illustrations on the title page 
of each chapter. 

The authors would like to thank several individuals who provided 
research and operational support. Arvies J. Staton supplied infor- 
mation on ranks and insignia; Afaf S. McGowan obtained photo- 
graphs; Robert S. Mason revised one of the chapters; Gwendolyn B. 
Batts typed manuscript drafts; and Cleophus Coleman transported 
materials. Finally, the authors acknowledge the generosity of the 
many individuals and public and private agencies who allowed their 
photographs to be used in this study. 




Foreword iii 

Acknowledgments v 

Preface xiii 

Country Profile , XV 

Introduction xxiii 

Chapter 1. Historical Setting 1 

LaVerle Berry 


Tripolitania and the Phoenicians 5 

Cyrenaica and the Greeks 6 

Fezzan and the Garamentes 7 

Libya and the Romans 8 


Fatimids 13 

Hilalians 14 

Hafsids 15 

Medieval Cyrenaica and Fezzan 16 


Pashas and Deys 18 

Karamanlis 19 

The Ottoman Revival 20 

The Sanusi Order 21 


Italian Rule and Arab Resistance 24 

The Second Italo-Sanusi War 27 

The Fourth Shore 29 


The Desert War 32 

Allied Administration 33 

The United Nations and Libya 34 


The September 1969 Coup 42 

Qadhafi and the Revolutionary Command Council . . 44 

The Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 47 

Petroleum Politics 50 

Libya and Arab Unity 52 


Libyan Ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa 55 

Relations with the United States and Western Europe . 56 

Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment .... 61 

LaVerle Berry 


Regions 64 

Climate and Hydrology 68 



Peoples of Libya 73 

Languages of Libya 79 


Evolutionary Changes in a Traditional Society 81 

The Revolution and Social Change 85 


Family and Household 91 

The Traditional View of Men and Women 93 

The New Society of the Revolutionary Era 95 


Tenets of Islam 100 

Saints and Brotherhoods 102 

The Sanusis 103 

Islam in Revolutionary Libya 104 


Social Welfare 107 

Medical Care 108 

Housing 109 


Primary and Secondary Education 112 

Higher Education 113 

Chapter 3. The Economy 117 

R. Thomas Lenaghan 




Hydrocarbons and Mining 128 

Manufacturing and Construction 136 

Energy 140 


Land Use and Irrigation 143 

Crops and Livestock 146 

Fishing and Forestry 147 




Budget, Expenditures, and Revenues 152 

Balance of Payments 156 

Foreign Aid and Investment 158 

Banking, Credit, and Currency 160 




Transportation 165 

Telecommunications 168 

Chapter 4. Politics and Government 171 

Shawky S. Zeidan 


National Executive and Legislative Evolution 177 

The General People's Congress 178 

Subnational Government and Administration 180 

Summary and Trends in 1987 188 


Court Structure 194 

Other Juridical Organs 196 

Unions and Syndicates 197 


Student Opposition 199 

Military Opposition 200 

Religious Opposition 201 

Exiled Opposition 203 


Third Universal Theory 208 

The Cultural Revolution 210 

The Green Book 212 


Arab Relations 217 

Mediterranean Relations 219 

Maghrib Relations 220 

Relations with Sub-Saharan Africa 223 

Relations with Western Europe and the United 

States 226 

Relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern 

Europe 230 

Multilateral Relations 231 

Nuclear Development 234 


Chapter 5. National Security 237 

Jean R. Tartter 





Libyan Security Concerns 246 

Performance in Combat 247 


Organization of the Armed Forces 258 

Conscription and the People's Militia 263 

Women in the Armed Forces 266 

Other Paramilitary Forces 268 

Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia of the Armed Forces . . 269 

Defense Costs 269 


The Quest for New Sources of Arms 274 

Military Cooperation with the Soviet Union 275 

Western Restrictions on Arms Transactions 276 

The Search for Nuclear Technology 279 






The Police System 284 

Incidence of Crime 286 

Criminal Justice System 286 

State of Internal Security 289 

Appendix. Tables 293 

Bibliography 305 

Glossary 325 

Index 333 

List of Figures 

1. Administrative Divisions (as of 1975) xxii 

2. Libya in Antiquity 6 

3. The Italian Conquest of Libya, 1921-31 28 

4. Physical Features 66 

5. Ethnic Groups 76 

6. School System, 1987 114 

7. Petroleum Industry Infrastructure, 1987 135 


8. Nonpetroleum Resources 138 

9. Land Use, 1987 143 

10. Transportation System, 1985 166 

11. Government Organization, June 1987 195 

12. Balance of Power in North Africa, 1986 249 

13. Libyan Intervention in Chad, 1980— Mid-1987 252 

14. Principal Military Installations, 1987 254 

15. Commissioned Officer Ranks and Insignia, 1987 270 

16. Enlisted Personnel Ranks and Insignia, 1987 271 



Like its predecessor, this study is an attempt to treat in a con- 
cise and objective manner the dominant social, political, economic, 
and military aspects of contemporary Libyan society. Sources of 
information included scholarly journals and monographs, official 
reports of governments and international organizations, foreign and 
domestic newspapers, and numerous periodicals. Relatively up- 
to-date statistical data in the economic and social fields were unavail- 
able, even from the United Nations and the World Bank. Chapter 
bibliographies appear at the the end of the book; brief comments 
on some of the more valuable sources suggested as possible fur- 
ther reading appear at the end of each chapter. Measurements are 
given in the metric system; a conversion table is provided to assist 
those readers who are unfamiliar with metric measurements (see 
table 1, Appendix). A glossary is also included. 

The transliteration of Arabic words and phrases follows a modi- 
fied version of the system adopted by the United States Board on 
Geographic Names and the Permanent Committee on Geographic 
Names for British Official Use, known as the BGN/PCGN sys- 
tem. The modification is a significant one, however, in that dia- 
critical markings and hyphens have been omitted. Moreover, some 
geographical locations, such as the cities of Benghazi, Tobruk, and 
Tripoli, are so well known by those conventional names that their 
formal names — Banghazi, Tubruq, and Tarabulus — are not used. 


Country Profile 


Formal Name: Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. 

Short Form: Libya. 

Term for Nationals: Libyans. 

Capital: Tripoli. 


Size: About 1,760,000 square kilometers (excluding Aouzou Strip 
claimed by Chad) consisting mainly of desert. Land boundaries 
4,345 kilometers long and coastline 1,770 kilometers long. Twelve- 
nautical-mile maritime claim, including disputed Gulf of Sidra. 


Topography: Main contrast between narrow enclaves of fertile 
lowlands along Mediterranean coast and vast expanse of arid, rocky 
plains and sand seas to south. Coastal lowlands separated from one 
another by predesert zone and backed by plateaus with steep, north- 
facing scarps; country's only true mountains, Tibesti Massif, rise 
in southern desert. Country has several saline lakes but no peren- 
nial watercourses. Less than 5 percent of territory economically 

Climate: Dominant climate influences Mediterranean Sea and 
Sahara Desert. In coastal lowlands, where 80 percent of popula- 
tion lives, climate Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild 
winters. Climate in desert interior characterized by very hot sum- 
mers and extreme diurnal temperature ranges. Precipitation ranges 
from light to negligible; less than 2 percent of country receives 
enough rainfall for settled agriculture. 


Population: Approximately 3.63 million inhabitants according to 
1984 census, including at least 260,000 aliens. Indigenous popu- 
lation was increasing at one of world's highest annual growth rates, 
estimated variously at between 3.4 percent and 4.5 percent. 

Languages and Ethnic Groups: Official language Arabic. Govern- 
ment policy discourages use of other languages, but English used 
extensively — even by government for some purposes — and ranks 
as a second language. Italian and French also spoken, and small 
minorities speak Berber dialects. Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims 
of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry make up well over 90 percent 
of indigenous population. Most of remainder Berbers, Tuareg, and 
black Africans, and small but long-settled Greek and Maltese com- 
munities. Expatriates, imported under government contract to meet 
labor shortages, largely citizens of other Muslim countries; many 
technical and professional positions filled by East and West Euro- 
peans. Altogether, representatives of more than 100 nationalities 
live in Libya. 

Health: Number of medical doctors and dentists reportedly 
increased sevenfold between 1970 and 1985, producing in case of 
doctors ratio of 1 per 673 citizens. In 1985, about one-third of doc- 
tors Libyan natives, remainder expatriate foreigners. Number of 
hospital beds tripled in same time period. Among major health haz- 
ards endemic in country in 1970s were typhoid and paratyphoid, 
infectious hepatitis, leishmaniasis, rabies, meningitis, schistosomi- 
asis, venereal diseases, and principal childhood ailments. Progress 


included eradication of malaria and significant gains against tra- 
choma, tuberculosis, and leprosy. In 1985 infant mortality rate was 
84 per 1 ,000. Life expectancy for men 56 years, for women 59 years. 

Literacy: In early 1980s, estimates of total literacy between 50 and 
60 percent, about 70 percent for men and 35 percent for women, 
but gap narrowing because of increased female school attendance. 

Religion: Islam official religion; nearly entire population adheres 
to Sunni branch of Islam. 


Gross Domestic Product (GDP): In 1986 GDP estimated at $US20 
billion, $6,260 per capita. Petroleum contributed almost 40 per- 
cent; public services and administration 12 percent; construction 
1 1 percent; transportation and communications 5 percent; manufac- 
turing 5 percent; and agriculture 4 percent. 

Petroleum: In early 1980s, estimated proven reserves were 32 bil- 
lion barrels, of which 7 billion barrels in offshore areas. In 1986 
production averaged slightly over 1 million barrels per day, and 
in 1987 declining. In 1986, Libya world's fifteenth largest producer 
of petroleum. 

Foreign Trade: In 1986 exports primarily petroleum worth US$5 
billion, matched by imports primarily of manufactures and food- 
stuffs worth US$5 billion. 

Currency: Libyan dinar; in mid- 1987 LD1 equaled US$3.16. 
Fiscal Year: Same as calendar year (see Glossary). 

Transportation and Communications 

Railroads: None. 

Roads: Over 23,000 kilometers of paved roads in 1985. 

Ports: In 1986 Tobruk, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Qasr Ahmad, near 
Misratah, major ports. Five major oil export terminals As Sidra, 
Burayqah, Ras al Unuf, Marsa al Hariqah, and Az Zuwaytinah; 
future sixth terminal planned at Zuwarah in western Libya. 

Airfields: Three international airports at Tripoli (Al Aziziyah air- 
port), Benghazi (Benina airport), and Sabha. Number of other 
smaller airfields with permanent- surface runways. National car- 
rier Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA). 

Communications: Telecommunications system greatly improved 
in late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1985 average of 1 telephone per 


100 persons. Also in 1985, completion of high-capacity cable sys- 
tem and submarine cable linking northern coastal strip with many 
parts of south. 

Government and Politics 

Form: Jamahiriya (newly coined Arabic word, roughly translated 
as "state of the masses," "people's power," or "people's author- 
ity"). In late 1987, de facto head of state and government and com- 
mander in chief of armed forces was Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi, 
who led 1969 Revolution against Sanusi monarchy. Application 
of his innovative and revolutionary Arab-socialist philosophy to 
Libyan nation has resulted in fundamental changes in political 
representation, property ownership, legal system, and commercial 

Executive and Legislature: General People's Congress (GPC), 
both an executive and legislative body that convenes several times 
annually, primary formal instrument of government; membership 
of more than 1,000 delegates drawn from subnational-level peo- 
ple's committees, people's congresses, and revolutionary commit- 
tees. Leadership of GPC vested in General Secretariat headed by 
secretary general, official chief of state. Cabinet functions performed 
by national-level General People's Committee. 

Subnational Governmental Divisions: After governorates 
abolished in 1975, Libya divided into between seven and ten mili- 
tary districts (number varies with frequent reorganizations). Each 
military district divided into several municipalities, subdivided into 
villages or urban wards. 

Legal System: Since 1969 Revolution, sharia (Islamic law) has 
replaced other jurisprudence. Regular court system adjudicates per- 
sonal, criminal, civil, and commercial law. People's courts, revolu- 
tionary courts, and military courts handle political transgressions 
and threats against state. 

Political Parties: Political parties banned; mass organization 
accomplished primarily through Arab Socialist Union (ASU), which 
includes geographically and functionally based membership. 

Foreign Relations: Libya under Qadhafi a staunch proponent of 
pan- Arab unity, both in theory and in practice. Libyan regional 
policy included an intractable opposition to Israel and support 
of Palestinian cause. In 1980s Qadhafi made bid for worldwide 
recognition and Third World leadership by espousing normative 
philosophy known as Third Universal Theory, which rejects both 


communist and capitalist models of government and calls instead 
for nonalignment, "people's power," and "new economic order" 
based on more equitable division of wealth between developed and 
underdeveloped countries. In accordance with this ideology, Libya 
has pursued activist and aggressive foreign policy, which includes 
alleged support and sponsorship of numerous terrorist and guer- 
rilla movements throughout world. Member of United Nations 
(UN) and most of its specialized agencies, League of Arab States 
(Arab League), Organization of African Unity (OAU), Organi- 
zation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and Organi- 
zation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC). 

National Security 

Armed Forces: In 1986 military manpower estimated at over 
90,000; components were army (over 70,000), air force (10,000), 
and navy (6,500). Compulsory Military Service Statute of 1978 
made all eligible males between ages of seventeen and thirty-five 
subject to draft commitment of three years of active service in army 
or four years in air force or navy. A 1984 statute mandated com- 
pulsory military training for all Libyans coming of age, whether 
male or female, to achieve total mobilization of population in event 
of national emergency. Law strengthened People's Militia (formerly 
known as Popular Resistance Force) into 45,000-person paramili- 
tary force. All forces were under control of Qadhafi in his role as 
commander in chief of military establishment. 

Police: Civil force, under Secretariat of Interior, known after 1985 
as People's Security Force (formerly known as Police at the Serv- 
ice of the People and the Revolution). Total number of personnel 
not available 1987. 

Major Tactical Military Units: In 1987 army composed of twenty 
armored battalions, thirty mechanized infantry battalions, ten artil- 
lery battalions, two special forces groups comprising ten paratroop 
battalions, and eight air defense battalions. Air force organized into 
one medium bomber squadron, three fighter-interceptor squadrons, 
five forward ground attack squadrons, one counterinsurgency 
squadron, nine helicopter squadrons, and three air defense brigades. 
Although navy configured to carry out essentially coast guard role, 
inventory included six Soviet-built submarines. 

Major Equipment Suppliers: Between 1980 and 1985, Soviet 
Union leading supplier of military equipment to Libya (US$4.6 
billion) followed by Czechoslovakia (US$875 million), Italy 
(US$850 million), France (US$725 million), and People's Republic 


of China (US$320 million). In early 1987, however, Soviet deliv- 
eries reportedly curtailed or cut off. Policy of refusing to ship arms 
to Libya was agreed to in Tokyo Declaration on International Ter- 
rorism signed in 1986 by United States, Canada, the Federal 
Republic of Germany (West Germany), Britain, Italy, France, and 
Japan. In 1987, Libya turning to peripheral suppliers such as 
Greece, Brazil, and Yugoslavia. 

Military Costs: According to Libyan figures, 1984 defense bud- 
get was LD340 million, which constituted 23.6 percent of total bud- 
get. In 1985, defense expenditures omitted from budget. According 
to United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (AC DA), 
Libyan cumulative arms purchases between 1981 and 1985 esti- 
mated at US$10.5 billion, with 1984 military spending estimated 
at US$5.1 billion. 




late 1980s was disproportionate to its geographic size or popula- 
tion. The domestic and international activities of its revolutionary 
leader Muammar al Qadhafl, combined with the financial and eco- 
nomic power resulting from Libya's discovery and exploitation of 
its significant petroleum resources, were primarily responsible for 
propelling Libya onto the world stage. By the 1980s, Qadhafi's 
grip on power was so strong that press commentaries and academic 
reports routinely used his name and that of his government inter- 

Until the Libyan Revolution in 1969, few Westerners had any 
knowledge of Libya beyond an awareness of it as the site of desert 
campaigns in World War II, such as Al Alamein, and the ruins 
of ancient Cyrene and Tripoli. Early Libyan history was influenced 
by numerous foreign conquerors, including the Phoenicians, the 
Greeks, the Romans, and, most significantly, the Arabs, who estab- 
lished Islam in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. The 
Arab conquest of North Africa left a lasting mark on the Berber 
tribes that inhabited the area. North African Islam under various 
caliphates took on a distinctive form that incorporated indigenous 
religious practices, such as the veneration of holy men (see Reli- 
gious Life, ch. 2). 

Under Ottoman Turkish rule in the nineteenth century, the 
Sanusi Islamic religious order became a powerful force with polit- 
ical overtones, as the Sanusi lodges helped weld the rival beduin 
tribes of Cyrenaica. In the twentieth century, when Italy sought 
to conquer Cyrenaica and adjoining Tripolitania, the Sanusi move- 
ment constituted the major source of opposition to colonial rule. 
More advanced Italian weaponry prevailed, however, and Italy 
gained control of the area following World War I, setting up a new 
administrative system joining the two regions, together with the 
southern region of Fezzan (see Italian Rule and Arab Resistance, 
ch. 1). 

The Italians improved the infrastructure of the area, creating 
roads, railroads, port facilities, and irrigation projects, but did lit- 
tle to train the inhabitants in administrative, technical, or agricul- 
tural skills. During World War II, a number of Cyrenaicans 
determined that the best route for gaining independence would be 
to support the Allied side; accordingly, they fought with the Brit- 
ish in the desert war. This action, coupled with Italy's defeat, led 


to a brief period of British administration of the former Italian- 
controlled area after the war. Thereafter, under United Nations 
auspices, King Idris of the Sanusi family proclaimed the United 
Kingdom of Libya in 1951. 

The new country faced severe economic problems as well as polit- 
ical difficulties resulting from its lack of national cohesion. Eco- 
nomically, Libya was handicapped by its largely desert terrain and 
its sparse and unskilled population. To gain a major source of 
revenue as well as of military assistance, King Idris granted base 
rights to Britain and the United States in 1953 and 1954, respec- 
tively. The discovery of oil in commercial quantities by Esso (later 
Exxon) in 1959 brought about a substantial increase in national 
income as well as growing Western influence. Meanwhile, in 1963, 
King Idris sought to change Libya's unwieldy federal system by 
creating a unitary state. The latter move encountered obstacles 
because the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan 
had little in common, and the majority of Libyans did not identify 
with the monarchy or have nationalist feelings. 

Both the discovery of oil and the increase in Western influence 
proved to be divisive elements for the Libyan state. Revenues from 
the oil industry benefited relatively few in Libyan society and led 
to greater stratification between the small wealthy group and the 
large poor one. Furthermore, King Idris's pro-Western constitu- 
tional monarchy had minimal associations with the Arab states. 
These two factors contributed to a rising dissatisfaction with the 
monarchy. The discontent ultimately led to the seizure of power 
by the Free Officers Movement in 1 969 while King Idris was abroad 
for medical treatment. 

The movement established a Revolutionary Command Coun- 
cil of twelve members, which formed a new government. Among 
the members was Qadhafi, who served both as prime minister and 
defense minister. Qadhafi was strongly influenced by the revolu- 
tionary ideas of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser and per- 
suaded his officer colleagues to adopt a program that reflected a 
number of Nasser's concepts. 

The new government proclaimed as its watchwords "Freedom, 
Socialism, and Unity." Freedom was to be achieved through a pro- 
gram that had a populist framework to allow maximum direct 
citizen participation at the bottom, through "people's committees," 
whereas the structure was controlled at the top by handpicked mili- 
tary officers. Socialism was pursued through various domestic pro- 
grams designed to develop Libya's infrastructure and promote 
industrialization. Unity entailed Libya's announced intent to pursue 
an Arab and Islamic policy as well as attempts by Qadhafi at 


various times to achieve union with several Arab states. In line 
with its intended populist and socialist character, in 1977 the offi- 
cial name of the country was changed to "the Socialist People's 
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. ' ' 

Qadhafi coined the term jamahiriya to mean "state of the masses," 
his interpretation of freedom. In theory, the power of the masses 
was to be exercised by the popular committees established at vari- 
ous levels and in different segments of the population — in locali- 
ties, government ministries, businesses, and universities. In practice, 
elections to such committees and the exercise of authority were 
"guided" by the General People's Committee, which replaced the 
Council of Ministers (see The General People's Congress, ch. 4). 
Although technically appointed by the General People's Congress 
at its annual meeting, the General People's Committee was in ef- 
fect selected by Qadhafi himself. Thus, the power to implement 
or initiate measures was strictly limited, and popular participation 
in government declined during the 1980s, leading Qadhafi to ad- 
vocate the creation of a new political party to energize the socialist 

To develop this political structure in the early period and to allow 
himself more time to serve as theoretician for the new Libyan experi- 
ment in revolutionary socialism, Qadhafi resigned in 1974 from 
any official government post, while remaining de facto head of state. 
In this capacity Qadhafi was referred to as "the leader," and he 
produced three slim parts of The Green Book, setting forth his pro- 
gram and its justification. The Green Book assumed a position for 
the Libyans comparable to that of the "little red book" of Chair- 
man Mao Zedong for the Chinese. 

Qadhafi 's pursuit of socialism as set out in The Green Book en- 
tailed the development of Libya's infrastructure in transportation 
and communications, utilities, and basic services (see Role of the 
Government, ch. 3). To accomplish this development, revenues 
and manpower were necessary. Substantial domestic revenues 
resulted from oil production in the years following the Revolution 
and transformed Libya from a leading have-not state into a major 
oil exporter. Because of Libya's severe shortage of manpower, par- 
ticularly skilled labor, thousands of foreign workers were required. 
These workers came mainly from other North African and from 
sub-Saharan states. When oil revenues began to decline in the early 
1980s, and in view of the internal security threat the laborers 
represented, Qadhafi terminated the services of thousands of them 
in the 1982-83 period, exacerbating Libya's relations with neigh- 
boring states. 


Another part of Qadhafi's socialist scheme was the establishment 
of industries and the improvement of agriculture through irriga- 
tion projects. A keystone of the latter was the Great Man-Made 
River project, underway in 1987, to bring water from oases in the 
south and southeast to the cities on the Mediterranean. The total 
estimated cost for the first two stages of the 1,900 kilometer-long 
pipeline was US$5 billion. 

The third element of Libya's program was support for Arab 
unity. In pursuit of this goal, Qadhafi capitalized on opportuni- 
ties for union with various Arab states. At different times, such 
unification attempts included unions with Egypt, Sudan, Syria, 
Tunisia, and Morocco. These efforts were designed to strengthen 
Qadhafi's personal leadership role in as well as Libya's position 
in African and Middle Eastern politics, and to act as a counter- 
balance to neighboring states perceived as hostile. For example, 
when Egypt was viewed as a threat, Qadhafi initiated a 1984 union 
with Morocco, the only one of his unions that as of early 1988 had 
achieved a semblance of implementation (1984-86). 

Qadhafi also saw himself both as a leader of the Third World 
and as a key instrument in furthering the spread of Islam, partic- 
ularly in sub-Saharan Africa. To these ends he sought unsuccess- 
fully several times in the early 1980s to be elected chairman of the 
Organization for African Unity and proposed a Sahelian empire 
to include Libya and other African states whose populations con- 
tained significant percentages of Muslims. Qadhafi used Libya's 
oil revenues both to spread Islam and to extend Libyan influence 
in developing countries, especially in Africa, seeing this two-pronged 
campaign as a means of countering colonialism and Western influ- 
ences (see Foreign Relations, ch. 4). This policy resulted from 
Qadhafi's advocacy in The Green Book of a stance that supported 
"neither East nor West, ' ' indicating that Libya rejected both com- 
munism, with its atheistic ideology, and Western capitalism, with 
its association with colonialism and "imperialism." This stance 
led to a strong opposition to the Western powers, particularly the 
United States, because of the latter's identification with Israel. 

Qadhafi's stand against colonialism led him to support dissident 
or revolutionary movements, particularly Muslim ones, that were 
fighting against established regimes viewed as reactionary, e.g., 
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Moro 
National Liberation Front in the Philippines. In so doing, he pro- 
vided weapons, funds, and training as deemed appropriate. Qadhafi 
has also been charged with training and equipping terrorist groups 
of various kinds, including Palestinians and the Irish Republican 
Army, who have launched attacks against Westerners, including 


Americans (see International Terrorism and Support for Insurgent 
Groups, ch. 5). In retaliation for such incidents, specifically the 
bombing of a Berlin club in which Americans were killed or 
wounded and in which Libya was implicated, the United States 
launched air strikes in April 1 986 against targets in several Libyan 
cities. This retaliation appeared to have served as a deterrent to 
Libyan terrorist activity in that as of early 1988 Libyan-sponsored 
terrorist incidents had decreased markedly. 

Qadhafi's avowed anticommunist stance was pragmatic, how- 
ever. Although he refused to grant bases to the Soviet Union, he 
viewed the latter as an excellent source of sophisticated weaponry. 
He also relied upon the countries of Eastern Europe for military 
and technical advisers and especially for assistance in the field of 
internal security. He used severe measures, however, in suppress- 
ing domestic communism. 

The major source of support for Qadhafi's domestic and for- 
eign programs has always been the army. Recognizing this, Qadhafi 
took pains to see that military salaries and perquisites were gener- 
ous and that the armed forces were equipped with the latest mili- 
tary arms and technology. His purchases of weaponry, particularly 
from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, were of such magni- 
tude that Libya was unable to deploy all its equipment (see For- 
eign Military Assistance, ch. 5). Qadhafi also took precautions 
against potential coups directed at him that might originate in the 
military by using East European security personnel to protect him- 
self and by frequently rotating individuals in key military positions. 

In 1988 Qadhafi had had one of the longest tenures of office of 
any African leader. But, in the course of his rule, opposition ele- 
ments within and outside Libya had increased. Internal opposi- 
tion resulted partly from Qadhafi's socialist measures, which had 
confiscated property belonging to wealthy citizens, partly from his 
increasingly authoritarian style of rule, such as his imperious sup- 
pression of opposition among university students, and partly from 
Qadhafi's military ventures abroad. In the mid- and latter 1980s, 
Qadhafi's campaign against internal opposition elements had 
become increasingly harsh, leading to the assassination of various 
individuals in exile abroad as well as actual or potential dissidents 
within Libya. Qadhafi's involvement in the ongoing war with Chad 
and his support of rebel forces in Sudan also contributed to reported 
rising discontent within the army. 

In the realm of external opposition, Qadhafi's relations with the 
moderate Arab states, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Per- 
sian Gulf states, were strained at best. He was also frequently at 
odds with his North African neighbors, whom he had antagonized 


by supporting opposition elements or by direct military action. 
Despite these sources of domestic and foreign opposition, foreign 
observers doubted that Qadhafi would be ousted from his pivotal 
position in the Libyan Jamahiriya, short of a successful military 

February 3, 1988 Helen Chapin Metz 


Chapter 1. Historical Setting 

An arch from Leptis Magna, built by the Romans in the early third 
century A.D. 

UNTIL LIBYA ACHIEVED independence in 1951, its history 
was essentially that of tribes, regions, and cities, and of the em- 
pires of which it was a part. Derived from the name by which a 
single Berber tribe was known to the ancient Egyptians, the name 
Libya was subsequently applied by the Greeks to most of North 
Africa and the term Libyan to all of its Berber inhabitants. Although 
ancient in origin, these names were not used to designate the specific 
territory of modern Libya and its people until the twentieth cen- 
tury, nor indeed was the whole area formed into a coherent politi- 
cal unit until then. Hence, despite the long and distinct histories 
of its regions, modern Libya must be viewed as a new country still 
developing national consciousness and institutions. 

Geography was the principal determinant in the separate histor- 
ical development of Libya's three traditional regions — Tripolitania, 
Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. Cut off from each other by formidable 
deserts, each retained its separate identity into the 1960s. At the 
heart of Tripolitania was its metropolis, Tripoli, for centuries a 
terminal for caravans plying the Saharan trade routes and a port 
sheltering pirates and slave traders. Tripolitania' s cultural ties were 
with the Maghrib (see Glossary), of which it was a part geographi- 
cally and culturally and with which it shared a common history. 
Tripolitanians developed their political consciousness in reaction 
to foreign domination, and it was from Tripolitania that the stron- 
gest impulses came for the unification of modern Libya. 

In contrast to Tripolitania, Cyrenaica historically was oriented 
toward Egypt and the Mashriq (see Glossary). With the exception 
of some of its coastal towns, Cyrenaica was left relatively untouched 
by the political influence of the regimes that claimed it but were 
unable to assert their authority in the hinterland. An element of 
internal unity was brought to the region's tribal society in the 
nineteenth century by a Muslim religious order, the Sanusi, and 
many Cyrenaicans demonstrated a determination to retain their 
regional autonomy even after Libyan independence and unification. 

Fezzan was less involved with either the Maghrib or the Mashriq. 
Its nomads traditionally looked for leadership to tribal dynasties 
that controlled the oases astride the desert trade routes. Through- 
out its history, Fezzan maintained close relations with sub-Saharan 
Africa as well as with the coast. 

The most significant milestones in Libya's history were the in- 
troduction of Islam and the Arabization of the country in the Middle 


Libya: A Country Study 

Ages, and, within the last two generations, national independence, 
the discovery of petroleum, and the September 1969 Revolution 
that brought Muammar al Qadhafi to power. The era since 1969 
has brought many important changes. The Qadhafi regime has 
made the first real attempt to unify Libya's diverse peoples and 
to create a distinct Libyan state and identity. It has created new 
political structures and made a determined effort at diversified eco- 
nomic development financed by oil revenues. The regime has also 
aspired to leadership in Arab and world affairs. As a consequence 
of these developments, Libyan society has been subjected to a sig- 
nificant degree of government direction and supervision, much of 
it at the behest of Qadhafi himself. Although the merits of the 
regime and its policies were much debated by Libyans and foreign- 
ers alike, there was no question that Libya in the 1980s was a sig- 
nificantly different country from the one it had been only two or 
three decades earlier. 

Early History 

Archaeological evidence indicates that from at least the eighth 
millennium B.C. Libya's coastal plain shared in a Neolithic culture, 
skilled in the domestication of cattle and cultivation of crops, that 
was common to the whole Mediterranean littoral. To the south, in 
what is now the Sahara Desert, nomadic hunters and herders roamed 
a vast, well-watered savanna that abounded in game and provided 
pastures for their stock. Their culture flourished until the region 
began to desiccate after 2000 B.C. Scattering before the encroach- 
ing desert and invading horsemen, the savanna people migrated into 
the Sudan (see Glossary) or were absorbed by the Berbers. 

The origin of the Berbers is a mystery, the investigation of which 
has produced an abundance of educated speculation but no solu- 
tion. Archaeological and linguistic evidence strongly suggests south- 
western Asia as the point from which the ancestors of the Berbers 
may have begun their migration into North Africa early in the third 
millennium B.C. Over the succeeding centuries they extended their 
range from Egypt to the Niger Basin. Caucasians of predominantly 
Mediterranean stock, the Berbers present a broad range of physi- 
cal types and speak a variety of mutually unintelligible dialects that 
belong to the Afro-Asiatic language family. They never developed 
a sense of nationhood and have historically identified themselves 
in terms of their tribe, clan, and family. Collectively, Berbers refer 
to themselves simply as imazighan, to which has been attributed the 
meaning "free men." 

Inscriptions found in Egypt dating from the Old Kingdom (ca. 
2700-2200 B.C.) are the earliest known recorded testimony of the 


Historical Setting 

Berber migration and also the earliest written documentation of 
Libyan history. At least as early as this period, troublesome Berber 
tribes, one of which was identified in Egyptian records as the Levu 
(or "Libyans"), were raiding eastward as far as the Nile Delta and 
attempting to settle there. During the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2200- 
1700 B.C.) the Egyptian pharaohs succeeded in imposing their over- 
lordship on these eastern Berbers and exacted tribute from them. 
Many Berbers served in the army of the pharaohs, and some rose 
to positions of importance in the Egyptian state. One such Berber 
officer seized control of Egypt in about 950 B.C. and, as Shishonk 
I, ruled as pharaoh. His successors of the twenty- second and twenty- 
third dynasties — the so-called Libyan dynasties (ca. 945-730 B.C.) — 
are also believed to have been Berbers. 

Tripolitania and the Phoenicians 

Enterprising Phoenician traders were active throughout the 
Mediterranean area before the twelfth century B.C. The depots that 
they set up at safe harbors on the African coast to service, supply, 
and shelter their ships were the links in a maritime chain reaching 
from the Levant to Spain. Many North African cities and towns 
originated as Phoenician trading posts, where the merchants of Tyre 
(in present-day Lebanon) eventually developed commercial relations 
with the Berber tribes and made treaties with them to ensure their 
cooperation in the exploitation of raw materials. By the fifth century 
B.C., Carthage, the greatest of the overseas Phoenician colonies, 
had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa, where a 
distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being. Punic set- 
tlements on the Libyan coast included Oea (Tripoli), Labdah (later 
Leptis Magna), and Sabratah, in an area that came to be known 
collectively as Tripolis, or "Three Cities" (see fig. 2). 

Governed by a mercantile oligarchy, Carthage and its dependen- 
cies cultivated good relations with the Berber tribes in the hinter- 
land, but the city-state was essentially a maritime power whose 
expansion along the western Mediterranean coast drew it into a con- 
frontation with Rome in the third century B.C. Defeated in the long 
Punic Wars (264-241 and 218-201 B.C.), Carthage was reduced 
by Rome to the status of a small and vulnerable African state at 
the mercy of the Berbers. Fear of a Carthaginian revival, however, 
led Rome to renew the war, and Carthage was destroyed in 146 
B.C. Tripolitania was assigned to Rome's ally, the Berber king of 
Numidia. A century later, Julius Caesar deposed the reigning 
Numidian king, who had sided with Pompey (Roman general and 
statesman, rival of Julius Caesar) in the Roman civil wars, and 
annexed his extensive territory to Rome, organizing Tripolitania 
as a Roman province. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Figure 2. Libya in Antiquity 

The influence of Punic civilization on North Africa remained 
deep-seated. The Berbers displayed a remarkable gift for cultural 
assimilation, readily synthesizing Punic cults with their folk religion. 
The Punic language was still spoken in the towns of Tripolitania 
and by Berber farmers in the coastal countryside in the late Roman 

Cyrenaica and the Greeks 

Like the Phoenicians, Minoan and Greek seafarers had for cen- 
turies probed the North African coast, which at the nearest point 
lay 300 kilometers from Crete, but systematic Greek settlement 
there began only in the seventh century B.C. during the great age 
of Hellenic overseas colonization. According to tradition, emigrants 
from the crowded island of Thera were commanded by the oracle 
at Delphi to seek a new home in North Africa, where in 631 B.C. 
they founded the city of Cyrene. The site to which Berber guides 
had led them was in a fertile highland region about twenty kilo- 
meters inland from the sea at a place where, according to the 
Berbers, a "hole in the heavens" would provide ample rainfall for 
the colony. 


Historical Setting 

Within 200 years of Cyrene's founding, four more important 
Greek cities were established in the area: Barce (Al Marj); Euhes- 
perides (later Berenice, present-day Benghazi); Teuchira (later 
Arsinoe, present-day Tukrah); and Apollonia (Susah), the port of 
Cyrene. Together with Cyrene, they were known as the Pentapolis 
(Five Cities). Often in competition, they found cooperation difficult 
even when confronted by common enemies. From Cyrene, the 
mother city and foremost of the five, derived the name of Cyrenaica 
for the whole region. 

The Greeks of the Pentapolis resisted encroachments by the Egyp- 
tians from the east as well as by the Carthaginians from the west, 
but in 525 B.C. the army of Cambyses (son of Cyrus the Great, 
King of Persia), fresh from the conquest of Egypt, overran 
Cyrenaica, which for the next two centuries remained under Per- 
sian or Egyptian rule. Alexander the Great was greeted by the 
Greeks when he entered Cyrenaica in 331 B.C. When Alexander 
died in 323 B.C., his empire was divided among his Macedonian 
generals. Egypt, with Cyrene, went to Ptolemy, a general under 
Alexander who took over his African and Syrian possessions; the 
other Greek city-states of the Pentapolis retained their autonomy. 
However, the inability of the city-states to maintain stable govern- 
ments led the Ptolemies to impose workable constitutions on them. 
Later, a federation of the Pentapolis was formed that was custom- 
arily ruled by a king drawn from the Ptolemaic royal house. Ptolemy 
Apion, the last Greek ruler, bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome, which 
formally annexed the region in 74 B.C. and joined it to Crete as 
a Roman province. 

The economic and cultural development of the Pentapolis was 
unaffected by the turmoil its political life generated. The region 
grew rich from grain, wine, wool, and stockbreeding and from sil- 
phium, an herb that grew only in Cyrenaica and was regarded as 
an aphrodisiac. Cyrene became one of the greatest intellectual and 
artistic centers of the Greek world, famous for its medical school, 
learned academies, and architecture, which included some of the 
finest examples of the Hellenistic style. The Cyrenaics, a school 
of thinkers who expounded a doctrine of moral cheerfulness that 
defined happiness as the sum of human pleasures, also made their 
home there and took inspiration from the city's pleasant climate. 

Fezzan and the Garamentes 

Throughout the period of Punic and Greek colonization of the 
coastal plain, the area known as Fezzan was dominated by the 
Garamentes, a tribal people who entered the region sometime before 
1000 B.C. In the desert they established a powerful kingdom 


Libya: A Country Study 

astride the trade route between the western Sudan and the Mediter- 
ranean coast. The Garamentes left numerous inscriptions in tifinagh, 
the ancient Berber form of writing still used by the Tuareg. Beyond 
these and the observations of Herodotus and other classical writers 
on their customs and dealings with the coastal settlements, little 
was known of this extraordinary and mysterious people until the 
advent of modern archaeological methods. 

The Garamentes' political power was limited to a chain of oases 
about 400 kilometers long in the Wadi Ajal, but from their capital 
at Germa they controlled the desert caravan trade from Ghadamis 
south to the Niger River, eastward to Egypt, and west to Maure- 
tania (see Glossary). The Carthaginians employed them as carriers 
of goods — gold and ivory purchased in exchange for salt — from 
the western Sudan to their depots on the Mediterranean coast. The 
Garamentes were also noted as horsebreeders and herders of long- 
horned cattle. They succeeded in irrigating portions of their arid 
lands for cultivation by using foggares, vast underground networks 
of stone-lined water channels. Their wealth and technical skill are 
also attested to by the remains of their towns, which were built 
of stone, and more than 50,000 of their pyramidal tombs. Rome 
sent several punitive expeditions against the Garamentes before 
concluding a lasting commercial and military alliance with them 
late in the first century A.D. 

Libya and the Romans 

For more than 400 years, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were pros- 
perous Roman provinces and part of a cosmopolitan state whose 
citizens shared a common language, legal system, and Roman iden- 
tity. Roman ruins like those of Leptis Magna, extant in present- 
day Libya, attest to the vitality of the region, where populous cities 
and even smaller towns enjoyed the amenities of urban life — the 
forum, markets, public entertainments, and baths — found in every 
corner of the Roman Empire. Merchants and artisans from many 
parts of the Roman world established themselves in North Africa, 
but the character of the cities of Tripolitania remained decidedly 
Punic and, in Cyrenaica, Greek. Tripolitania was a major exporter 
of olive oil, as well as being the entrepot for the gold and slaves 
conveyed to the coast by the Garamentes, while Cyrenaica remained 
an important source of wines, drugs, and horses. The bulk of the 
population in the countryside consisted of Berber farmers, who in 
the west were thoroughly "Punicized" in language and customs. 

Although the African provinces profited as much as any part of 
the empire from the imposition of the Pax Romana, the region was 
not without strife and threat of war. Only near the end of the first 


Historical Setting 

century A.D. did the army complete the pacification of the Sirtica, 
a desert refuge for the barbarian tribes that had impeded overland 
communications between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. But for more 
than two centuries thereafter commerce flowed safely between mar- 
kets and ports along a well-maintained road system and sea lanes 
policed by Roman forces who also guaranteed the security of set- 
tled areas against incursions by desert nomads. The vast territory 
was defended by one locally recruited legion (5,500 men) in 
Cyrenaica and the elements of another in Tripolitania, reinforced 
by tribal auxiliaries on the frontier. Although expeditions penetrated 
deep into Fezzan, in general Rome sought to control only those 
areas in the African provinces that were economically useful or could 
be garrisoned with the manpower available. 

Under the Ptolemies, Cyrenaica had become the home of a large 
Jewish community, whose numbers were substantially increased 
by tens of thousands of Jews deported there after the failure of the 
rebellion against Roman rule in Palestine and the destruction of 
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Some of the refugees made their way into 
the desert, where they became nomads and nurtured their fierce 
hatred of Rome. They converted to Judaism many of the Berbers 
with whom they mingled, and in some cases whole tribes were iden- 
tified as Jewish. In 1 15 the Jews raised a major revolt in Cyrenaica 
that quickly spread through Egypt back to Palestine. The uprising 
was put down by 118, but only after Jewish insurgents had laid 
waste to Cyrenaica and sacked the city of Cyrene. Contemporary 
observers counted the loss of life during those years at more than 
200,000, and at least a century was required to restore Cyrenaica 
to the order and prosperity that had meanwhile prevailed in 

As part of his reorganization of the empire in 300, the Emperor 
Diocletian separated the administration of Crete from Cyrenaica 
and in the latter formed the new provinces of Upper Libya and 
Lower Libya, using the term Libya for the first time as an adminis- 
trative designation. With the definitive partition of the empire in 
395, the Libyans were assigned to the eastern empire; Tripolitania 
was attached to the western empire. 

By the beginning of the second century, Christianity had been 
introduced among the Jewish community, and it soon gained con- 
verts in the towns and among slaves. Rome's African provinces 
were thoroughly Christianized by the end of the fourth century, 
and inroads had been made as well among the Berber tribes in the 
hinterland. From an early date, however, the churches in Tripolita- 
nia and Cyrenaica developed distinct characteristics that reflected 
their differing cultural orientations. The former came under the 


Libya: A Country Study 

jurisdiction of the Latin patriarch, the bishop of Rome, and the 
latter under that of the Coptic (Egyptian) patriarch of Alexandria. 
In both areas, religious dissent became a vehicle for social revolt 
at a time of political deterioration and economic depression. 

Invited to North Africa by a rebellious Roman official, the Van- 
dals, a Germanic tribe, crossed from Spain in 429. They seized 
power and, under their leader, Gaiseric, established a kingdom that 
made its capital at Carthage. Although the Roman Empire even- 
tually recognized their overlordship in much of North Africa, 
including Tripolitania, the Vandals confined their rule to the most 
economically profitable areas. There they constituted an isolated 
warrior caste, concerned with collecting taxes and exploiting the 
land but leaving civil administration in Roman hands. From their 
African base they conquered Sardinia and Corsica and launched 
raids on Italy, sacking the city of Rome in 455. In time, however, 
the Vandals lost much of their warlike spirit, and their kingdom 
fell to the armies of Belisarius, the Byzantine general who in 533 
began the reconquest of North Africa for the Roman Empire. 

Effective Byzantine control in Tripolitania was restricted to the 
coast, and even there the newly walled towns, strongholds, forti- 
fied farms, and watchtowers called attention to its tenuous nature. 
The region's prosperity had shrunk under Vandal domination, and 
the old Roman political and social order, disrupted by the Van- 
dals, could not be restored. In outlying areas neglected by the Van- 
dals, the inhabitants had sought the protection of tribal chieftains 
and, having grown accustomed to their autonomy, resisted reas- 
similation into the imperial system. Cyrenaica, which had remained 
an outpost of the Byzantine Empire during the Vandal period, also 
took on the characteristics of an armed camp. Unpopular Byzan- 
tine governors imposed burdensome taxation to meet military costs, 
but towns and public services — including the water system — were 
left to decay. Byzantine rule in Africa did prolong the Roman ideal 
of imperial unity there for another century and a half, however, 
and prevented the ascendancy of the Berber nomads in the coastal 

Islam and the Arabs 

By the time of his death in A.D. 632, the Prophet Muhammad 
and his followers had brought most of the tribes and towns of the 
Arabian Peninsula under the banner of the new monotheistic 
religion of Islam (literally, "submission"), which was conceived 
of as uniting the individual believer and society under the omni- 
potent will of Allah (God). Islamic rulers therefore exercised both 
temporal and religious authority. Adherents of Islam, called 


A view of the ancient ruins at Germa in the Fezzan 

Courtesy Keith Daber 

Muslims ("those who submit" to the will of God), collectively 
formed the House of Islam (Dar al Islam). 

Within a generation, Arab armies had carried Islam north and 
east from Arabia and westward into North Africa. In 642 Amr ibn 
al As, an Arab general under Caliph Umar I, conquered Cyrenaica, 
establishing his headquarters at Barce. Two years later, he moved 
into Tripolitania, where, by the end of the decade, the isolated 
Byzantine garrisons on the coast were overrun and Arab control 
of the region consolidated. Uqba ibn Nafi, an Arab general under 
the ruling caliph, invaded Fezzan in 663, forcing the capitulation 
of Germa. Stiff Berber resistance in Tripolitania had slowed the 
Arab advance to the west, however, and efforts at permanent con- 
quest were resumed only when it became apparent that the Maghrib 
(see Glossary) could be opened up as a theater of operations in the 
Muslim campaign against the Byzantine Empire. In 670 the Arabs 
surged into the Roman province of Africa (transliterated Ifriqiya 
in Arabic; present-day Tunisia), where Uqba founded the city of 
Kairouan (present-day Al Qayrawan) as a military base for an 
assault on Byzantine-held Carthage. Twice the Berber tribes com- 
pelled them to retreat into Tripolitania, but each time the Arabs, 
employing recently converted Berber tribesmen recruited in 
Tripolitania, returned in greater force, and in 693 they took 
Carthage. The Arabs cautiously probed the western Maghrib and 
in 710 invaded Morocco, carrying their conquests to the Atlantic. 


Libya: A Country Study 

In 7 1 2 they mounted an invasion of Spain and in three years had 
subdued all but the mountainous regions in the extreme north. Mus- 
lim Spain (called Andalusia), the Maghrib (including Tripolitania), 
and Cyrenaica were systematically organized under the political 
and religious leadership of the Umayyad caliph of Damascus. 

Arab rule in North Africa — as elsewhere in the Islamic world in 
the eighth century — had as its ideal the establishment of political 
and religious unity under a caliphate (the office of the Prophet's 
successor as supreme earthly leader of Islam) governed in accord 
with sharia (a legal system) administered by qadis (religious judges) 
to which all other considerations, including tribal loyalties, were 
subordinated. The sharia was based primarily on the Quran and 
the hadith (see Glossary) and derived in part from Arab tribal and 
market law. 

Arab rule was easily imposed in the coastal farming areas and 
on the towns, which prospered again under Arab patronage. Towns- 
men valued the security that permitted them to practice their com- 
merce and trade in peace, while the Punicized farmers recognized 
their affinity with the Semitic Arabs to whom they looked to pro- 
tect their lands; in Cyrenaica, Monophysite adherents of the Coptic 
Church had welcomed the Muslim Arabs as liberators from Byzan- 
tine oppression. Communal and representative Berber tribal 
institutions, however, contrasted sharply and frequently clashed 
with the personal and authoritarian government that the Arabs had 
adopted under Byzantine influence. While the Arabs abhorred the 
tribal Berbers as barbarians, the Berbers in the hinterland often 
saw the Arabs only as an arrogant and brutal soldiery bent on col- 
lecting taxes. 

The Arabs formed an urban elite in North Africa, where they 
had come as conquerors and missionaries, not as colonists. Their 
armies had traveled without women and married among the indig- 
enous population, transmitting Arab culture and Islamic religion 
over a period of time to the townspeople and farmers. Although 
the nomadic tribes of the hinterland had stoutly resisted Arab 
political domination, they rapidly accepted Islam. Once established 
as Muslims, however, the Berbers, with their characteristic love 
of independence and impassioned religious temperament, shaped 
Islam in their own image, enthusiastically embracing schismatic 
Muslim sects — often traditional folk religion barely distinguished 
as Islam — as a way of breaking from Arab control. 

One such sect, the Kharijites (seceders; literally, "those who 
emerge from impropriety") surfaced in North Africa in the mid- 
eighth century, proclaiming its belief that any suitable Muslim can- 
didate could be elected caliph without regard to his race, station, 


Historical Setting 

or descent from the Prophet. The attack on the Arab monopoly 
of the religious leadership of Islam was explicit in Kharijite doc- 
trine, and Berbers across the Maghrib rose in revolt in the name 
of religion against Arab domination. The rise of the Kharijites coin- 
cided with a period of turmoil in the Arab world during which the 
Abbasid dynasty overthrew the Umayyads and relocated the 
caliphate in Baghdad. In the wake of the revolt, Kharijite sectari- 
ans established a number of theocratic tribal kingdoms, most of 
which had short and troubled histories. One such kingdom, 
however, founded by the Bani Khattab, succeeded in putting down 
roots in remote Fezzan, where the capital, Zawilah, developed into 
an important oasis trading center. 

After the Arab conquest, North Africa was governed by a suc- 
cession of amirs (commanders) who were subordinate to the caliph 
in Damascus and, after 750, in Baghdad. In 800 the Abbasid caliph 
Harun ar Rashid appointed as amir Ibrahim ibn Aghlab, who es- 
tablished a hereditary dynasty at Kairouan that ruled Ifriqiya and 
Tripolitania as an autonomous state that was subject to the caliph's 
spiritual jurisdiction and that nominally recognized him as its po- 
litical suzerain. The Aghlabid amirs repaired the neglected Roman 
irrigation system, rebuilding the region's prosperity and restoring 
the vitality of its cities and towns with the agricultural surplus that 
was produced. At the top of the political and social hierarchy were 
the bureaucracy, the military caste, and an Arab urban elite that 
included merchants, scholars, and government officials who had 
come to Kairouan, Tunis, and Tripoli from many parts of the 
Islamic world. Members of the large Jewish communities that also 
resided in those cities held office under the amirs and engaged in 
commerce and the crafts. Converts to Islam often retained the 
positions of authority held traditionally by their families or class 
in Roman Africa, but a dwindling, Latin- speaking, Christian com- 
munity lingered on in the towns until the eleventh century. The 
Aghlabids contested control of the central Mediterranean with the 
Byzantine Empire and, after conquering Sicily, played an active 
role in the internal politics of Italy. 


By the seventh century, a conflict had developed between sup- 
porters of rival claimants to the caliphate that would split Islam 
into two branches — the orthodox Sunni and the Shia — which con- 
tinued thereafter as the basic division among Muslims. The Shias 
(from Shiat Alt, or Party of Ali) supported the claims of the direct 
descendants of Ali, the fourth caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet 
Muhammad, whereas the Sunnis favored that of Ali's rival, the 


Libya: A Country Study 

leader of a collateral branch of Muhammad's tribe, and the prin- 
ciple of election of the fittest from the ranks of the shurfa (see Glos- 
sary). The Shias had their greatest appeal among non-Arab 
Muslims, who, like the Berbers, were scorned by the aristocratic 
desert Arabs. 

In the last decade of the ninth century, missionaries of the Ismaili 
sect of Shia Islam converted the Kutama Berbers of the Kabylie 
region to the militant brand of Shia Islam and led them on a cru- 
sade against the Sunni Aghlabids. Kairouan fell in 909, and the 
next year the Kutama installed the Ismaili grandmaster from Syria, 
Ubaidalla Said, as imam (see Glossary) of their movement and ruler 
over the territory they had conquered, which included Tripolitania. 
Recognized by his Berber followers as the Mahdi ("the divinely 
guided one" — see Glossary), the imam founded the Shia dynasty 
of the Fatimids, named for Fatima, daughter of Muhammad and 
wife of Ali, from whom the imam claimed descent. 

Merchants of the coastal towns were the backbone of the Fatimid 
state that was founded by religious enthusiasts and imposed by 
Berber tribesmen. The slow but steady economic revival of Europe 
created a demand for goods from the East for which Fatimid ports 
in North Africa and Sicily were ideal distribution centers. Tripoli 
thrived on the trade in slaves and gold brought from the Sudan 
and on the sale of wool, leather, and salt shipped from its docks 
to Italy in exchange for wood and iron goods. 

For many years the Fatimids threatened Morocco with invasion, 
but they eventually turned their armies eastward, where in the name 
of religion the Berbers took their revenge on the Arabs. By 969 
the Fatimids had completed the conquest of Egypt and moved their 
capital to the new city that they founded at Cairo, where they 
established a Shia caliphate to rival that of the Sunni caliph at Bagh- 
dad. They left the Maghrib to their Berber vassals, the Zirids, but 
the Shia regime had already begun to crumble in Tripolitania as 
factions struggled indecisively for regional supremacy. The Zirids 
neglected the economy, except to pillage it for their personal gain. 
Agricultural production declined, and farmers and herdsmen 
became brigands. Shifting patterns of trade gradually depressed 
the once-thriving commerce of the towns. In an effort to hold the 
support of the urban Arabs, in 1049 the Zirid amir defiantly rejected 
the Shia creed, broke with the Fatimids, and initiated a Berber 
return to Sunni orthodoxy. 


In Cairo the Fatimid caliph reacted by inviting the Bani Hilal 
and Bani Salim, beduin tribes from Arabia known collectively as 


Historical Setting 

the Hilalians, to migrate to the Maghrib and punish his rebellious 
vassals, the Zirids. The Arab nomads spread across the region, 
in the words of the historian Ibn Khaldun, like a "swarm of lo- 
custs," impoverishing it, destroying towns, and dramatically al- 
tering the face and culture of the countryside. 

The Hilalian impact on Cyrenaica and Tripolitania was devastat- 
ing in both economic and demographic terms. Tripoli was sacked, 
and what litde remained of urban life in once- great cities like Cyrene 
was snuffed out, leaving only ruins. Over a long period of time, 
Arabs displaced Berbers (many of whom joined the Hilalians) from 
their traditional lands and converted farmland to pasturage. Land 
was neglected, and the steppe was allowed to intrude into the coastal 

The number of Hilalians who moved westward out of Egypt has 
been estimated as high as 200,000 families. The Bani Salim seem 
to have stopped in Libya, while the Bani Hilal continued across 
the Maghrib until they reached the Atlantic coast of Morocco and 
completed the Arabization of the region, imposing their social 
organization, values, and language on it. The process was partic- 
ularly thorough in Cyrenaica, which is said to be more Arab than 
any place in the Arab world except for the interior of Arabia. 

The Norman rulers of southern Italy took advantage of the Zirids' 
distress in North Africa to invade Sicily in 1060 and bring it back 
under Christian control. By 1 150 the Normans held a string of ports 
and fortresses along the coast between Tunis and Tripoli, but their 
interests in North Africa were commercial rather than political, 
and no effort was made to extend the conquest inland. 


The eleventh and twelfth centuries witnessed the rise in Morocco 
of two rival Berber tribal dynasties — the Almoravids and the Almo- 
hads, both founded by religious reformers — that dominated the 
Maghrib and Muslim Spain for more than two hundred years. The 
founder of the Almohad (literally, "one who proclaims" the one- 
ness of God) movement was a member of the Sunni ulama (see 
Glossary), Ibn Tumart (d. 1 130), who preached a doctrine of moral 
regeneration through reaffirmation of monotheism. As judge and 
political leader as well as spiritual director, Ibn Tumart gave the 
Almohads a hierarchical and theocratic centralized government, 
respecting but transcending the old tribal structure. His succes- 
sor, the sultan Abdal Mumin (reigned 1130-63), subdued Morocco, 
extended the Muslim frontier in Spain, and by 1160 had swept 
eastward across the Maghrib and forced the withdrawal of the Nor- 
mans from their strongholds in Ifriqiya and Tripolitania, which 
were added to the Almohad empire. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Mumin proclaimed an Almohad caliphate at Cordova, giving 
the sultan supreme religious as well as political authority within 
his domains, but theology gradually gave way to dynastic politics 
as the motivating force behind the movement. The Almohads had 
succeeded in unifying the Maghrib but, as its empire grew and 
the Almohad power base shifted to Spain, the dynasty became more 
remote from the Berber tribes that had launched it. By 1270 the 
Almohads in Morocco had succumbed to tribal warfare and in Spain 
to the steady advance of the Kingdom of Castile. 

At the eastern end of the Almohad empire, the sultan left an 
autonomous viceroy whose office became hereditary in the line of 
Muhammad ibn Abu Hafs (reigned 1207-21), a descendant of one 
of Ibn Tumart's companions. With the demise of the Almohad 
dynasty in Morocco, the Hafsids adopted the titles of caliph and 
sultan and considered themselves the Almohads' legitimate suc- 
cessors, keeping alive the memory of Ibn Tumart and the ideal 
of Maghribi unity from their capital in Tunis. 

The Hafsids' political support and their realm's economy were 
rooted in coastal towns like Tripoli, while the hinterland was given 
up to the tribes that had made their nominal submission to the sul- 
tan. The Hafsids encouraged trade with Europe and forged close 
links with Aragon and the Italian maritime states. Despite these 
commercial ties, Hafsid relations with the European powers even- 
tually deteriorated when the latter intrigued in the dynasty's 
increasingly troubled and complex internal politics. Theocratic 
republics, tribal states, and coastal enclaves seized by pirate cap- 
tains defied the sultan's authority, and in 1460 Tripoli was declared 
an independent city-state by its merchant oligarchy. 

During the Hafsid era, spanning more than 300 years, however, 
the Maghrib and Muslim Spain had shared a common higher 
culture — called Moorish — that transcended the rise and fall of 
dynasties in creating new and unique forms of art, literature, and 
architecture. Its influence spread from Spain as far as Tripolitania, 
where Hafsid patronage had encouraged a flowering Arab creativity 
and scholarship. 

Medieval Cyrenaica and Fezzan 

Cyrenaica lay outside the orbit of the Maghribi dynasties, its 
orientation on Egypt. From the time when Saladin displaced the 
Fatimids in 1171 until the Ottoman occupation in 1517, Egypt was 
ruled by a succession of Mamluk (caste of "slave- soldiers," in Egypt 
often Kurds, Circassians, or Turks) dynasties that claimed suzer- 
ainty over Cyrenaica but exercised little more than nominal polit- 
ical control there. The beduin tribes of Baraqah, as Cyrenaica was 


Part of an excavated 
Roman city at Sabratah, 
near Tripoli 
United Nations 

4 *»- 

known to the Arabs, willingly accepted no authority other than that 
of their own chieftains. In the fifteenth century, merchants from 
Tripoli revived the markets in some towns, but Cyrenaica's main 
source of income was from the pilgrims and caravans traveling be- 
tween the Maghrib and Egypt, who purchased protection from the 

Turbulent chieftains of the Bani Khattab dominated Fezzan. 
Their importance, like that of the Garamentes, derived from their 
control of the oases on the trade route over which caravans carried 
gold, ivory, and slaves from the western Sudan to markets on the 
Mediterranean. In the thirteenth century the king of Bornu, a Mus- 
lim state in the Lake Chad Basin, invaded Fezzan from the south 
and established a client regime that for a time commanded the trade 
route. Fezzan was always a target for adventurers, one of whom, 
the Moroccan Muhammad al Fazi, displaced the last of the Bani 
Khattab early in the sixteenth century and founded a line at Marzuq 
that remained as undisputed rulers of the region under Ottoman 

Ottoman Regency 

Throughout the sixteenth century, Hapsburg Spain and the 
Ottoman Turks were pitted in a struggle for supremacy in the 
Mediterranean. Spanish forces had already occupied a number of 
other North African ports when in 1510 they captured Tripoli, 


Libya: A Country Study 

destroyed the city, and constructed a fortified naval base from the 
rubble. Tripoli was of only marginal importance to Spain, however, 
and in 1524 the king-emperor Charles V entrusted its defense to 
the Knights of St. John of Malta. 

Piracy, which for both Christians and Muslims was a dimen- 
sion of the conflict between the opposing powers, lured adventurers 
from around the Mediterranean to the Maghribi coastal towns and 
islands. Among them was Khair ad Din, called Barbarossa, who 
in 1510 seized Algiers on the pretext of defending it from the 
Spaniards. Barbarossa subsequently recognized the suzerainty of 
the Ottoman sultan over the territory that he controlled and was 
in turn appointed the sultan's regent in the Maghrib. Using Algiers 
as their base, Barbarossa and his successors consolidated Ottoman 
authority in the central Maghrib, extended it to Tunisia and 
Tripolitania, and threatened Morocco. In 1551 the knights were 
driven out of Tripoli by the Turkish admiral, Sinan Pasha. In the 
next year Draughut Pasha, a Turkish pirate captain named gover- 
nor by the sultan, restored order in the coastal towns and under- 
took the pacification of the Arab nomads in Tripolitania, although 
he admitted the difficulty of subduing a people "who carry their 
cities with them." Only in the 1580s did the rulers of Fezzan give 
their allegiance to the sultan, but the Turks refrained from trying 
to exercise any influence there. Ottoman authority was also ab- 
sent in Cyrenaica, although a bey (commander) was stationed at 
Benghazi late in the next century to act as agent of the govern- 
ment in Tripoli. 

Pashas and Deys 

The Ottoman Maghrib was formally divided into three 
regencies — at Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. After 1565 authority as 
regent in Tripoli was vested in a pasha (see Glossary) appointed 
by the sultan. The regency was provided a corps of janissaries (see 
Glossary), recruited from Turkish peasants who were committed 
to a lifetime of military service. The corps was organized into com- 
panies, each commanded by a junior officer with the rank of dey 
(literally, "maternal uncle"). It formed a self-governing military 
guild, subject to its own laws, whose interests were protected by 
the Divan, a council of senior officers that also advised the pasha. 
In time the pasha's role was reduced to that of ceremonial head 
of state and figurehead representative of Ottoman suzerainty, as 
real power came to rest with the army. 

Mutinies and coups were frequent, and generally the janissaries 
were loyal to whoever paid and fed them most regularly. In 1611 
the deys staged a successful coup, forcing the pasha to appoint 


Historical Setting 

their leader, Suleiman Safar, as head of government — in which 
capacity he and his successors continued to bear the title dey. At 
various times the dey was also pasha- regent. His succession to office 
occurred generally amid intrigue and violence. The regency that 
he governed was autonomous in internal affairs and, although 
dependent on the sultan for fresh recruits to the corps of janissaries, 
his government was left to pursue a virtually independent foreign 
policy as well. 

Tripoli, which had 30,000 inhabitants at the end of the seven- 
teenth century, was the only city of any size in the regency. The 
bulk of its residents were Moors, as city-dwelling Arabs were known. 
Several hundred Turks and renegades formed a governing elite 
apart from the rest of the population. A larger component was the 
khouloughlis (literally, "sons of servants"), offspring of Turkish sol- 
diers and Arab women who traditionally held high administrative 
posts and provided officers for the spahis, the provincial cavalry 
units that augmented the corps of janissaries. They identified them- 
selves with local interests and were, in contrast to the Turks, re- 
spected by the Arabs. Regarded as a distinct caste, the khouloughlis 
lived in their menshia, a lush oasis located just outside the walls of 
the city. Jews and moriscos, descendants of Muslims expelled from 
Spain in the sixteenth century, were active as merchants and crafts- 
men, some of the moriscos also achieving notoriety as pirates. A small 
community of European traders clustered around the compounds 
of the foreign consuls, whose principal task was to sue for the release 
of captives brought to Tripoli by the corsairs. European slaves and 
larger numbers of enslaved blacks transported from the Sudan were 
a ubiquitous feature of the life of the city. 


Lacking direction from the Porte (Ottoman government), Tripoli 
lapsed into a period of military anarchy during which coup fol- 
lowed coup and few deys survived in office more than a year. In 
1711 Ahmad Karamanli, a popular khouloughli cavalry officer, seized 
Tripoli and then purchased his confirmation by the sultan as pasha- 
regent with property confiscated from Turkish officials he had mas- 
sacred during the coup. Although he continued to recognize nominal 
Ottoman suzerainty, Ahmad (reigned 1711-45) created an indepen- 
dent hereditary monarchy in Tripoli with a government that was 
essentially Arab in its composition. Intelligent and resourceful as 
well as ruthless, he increased his revenues from piracy, pursued 
an active foreign policy with European powers, used a loyal mili- 
tary establishment to win the allegiance of the tribes, and extended 
his authority into Cyrenaica. 


Libya: A Country Study 

The Karamanli regime, however, declined under Ahmad 's suc- 
cessors. Then in 1793, a Turkish officer, Ali Benghul, overthrew 
the Karamanlis and restored Tripoli to Ottoman rule. With the 
aid of the bey of Tunis, Yusuf ibn Ali Karamanli (reigned 
1795-1832) returned to Tripoli and installed himself as pasha. A 
throwback to the founder of the dynasty, he tamed the tribes and 
defied both the Porte and British naval power to assist Napoleon 
Bonaparte during his Egyptian campaign in 1799. 

The effectiveness of Tripoli's corsairs had long since deteriorated, 
but their reputation alone was enough to prompt European mari- 
time states to pay the tribute extorted by the pasha to ensure safe 
passage of their shipping through Tripolitanian waters. American 
merchant ships, no longer covered by British protection, were seized 
by Barbary pirates in the years after United States independence, 
and American crews were enslaved. In 1799 the United States 
agreed to pay Yusuf US$18,000 a year in return for a promise that 
Tripoli-based corsairs would not molest American ships. Similar 
agreements were made at the time with the rulers of Morocco, 
Algiers, and Tunis. 

In the years immediately after the Napoleonic wars, which ended 
in 1815, the European powers forced an end to piracy and the pay- 
ment of tribute in the Barbary states. Deprived of the basis of its 
economy, Tripoli was unable to pay for basic imports or to service 
its foreign debt. When France and Britain pressed for payment of 
debts on behalf of Tripoli's creditors, the Divan authorized extra- 
ordinary taxes to provide the needed revenue. The imposition of 
the taxes provoked an outcry in the towns and among the tribes 
that quickly degenerated into civil war. With the allegiance of the 
country split among rival claimants to the throne, Yusuf abdicated 
in favor of his son, Ali II (reigned 1832-35). In response to Ali's 
appeal for assistance and out of fear of the European takeover in 
Tripoli, the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II sent Turkish troops, 
ostensibly to put down the numerous rebellions against the pasha 
and to restore order. But Ali was packed aboard a Turkish war- 
ship, which carried him into exile, while the sultan's troops rein- 
stated Ottoman rule in Tripoli. 

The Ottoman Revival 

The administrative system imposed by the Turks was typical of 
that found elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. Tripolitania, as all 
three historic regions were collectively designated, became a Turkish 
vilayet (province) under a wali (governor general) appointed by the 
sultan. The province was composed of four sanjaks (subprovinces), 
each administered by a mutasarrif (lieutenant governor) 


Historical Setting 

responsible to the governor general. These subprovinces were each 
divided into about fifteen districts. 

Executive officers from the governor general downward were 
Turks. The mutasarrif was in some cases assisted by an advisory 
council and, at the lower levels, Turkish officials relied on aid and 
counsel from the tribal shaykhs. Administrative districts below the 
subprovincial level corresponded to the tribal areas that remained 
the focus of the Arabs' identification. 

Although the system was logical and appeared efficient on paper, 
it was never consistently applied throughout the country. The Turks 
encountered strong local opposition through the 1850s and showed 
little interest in implementing Ottoman control over Fezzan and 
the interior of Cyrenaica. In 1879 Cyrenaica was separated from 
Tripolitania, its mutasarrif reporting thereafter directly to Constan- 
tinople (present-day Istanbul). After the 1908 reform of the Otto- 
man government, both were entitled to send representatives to the 
Turkish parliament. 

In an effort to provide the country with a tax base, the Turks 
attempted unsuccessfully to stimulate agriculture. However, in 
general, nineteenth-century Ottoman rule was characterized by cor- 
ruption, revolt, and repression. The region was a backwater 
province in a decaying empire that had been dubbed the ' ' sick man 
of Europe." 

The Sanusi Order 

Outside the towns, the ulama might often be replaced as the 
spiritual guides of the people by wandering holy men known as 
marabouts (see Glossary), mystics and seers whose tradition 
antedated Islam. Called "men of the soil," the marabouts of popu- 
lar Islam were incorporated into intensely local cults of saints. They 
had traditionally acted as arbiters in tribal disputes and, whenever 
the authority of government waned in a particular locale, the peo- 
ple turned to the marabouts for political leadership as well as for 
spiritual guidance. Islam had thus taken shape as a coexisting blend 
of the scrupulous intellectualism of the ulama and the sometimes 
frenzied emotionalism of the masses. 

The founder of the Sanusi religious order, Muhammad ibn Ali 
as Sanusi (1787-1859), possessed both the popular appeal of a 
marabout and the prestige of a religious scholar. Early in his 
spiritual formation, he had come under the influence of the Sufis, 
a school of mystics who had inspired an Islamic revival in the eigh- 
teenth and nineteenth centuries, and incorporated their asceticism 
into his own religious practices. Born near Oran in Algeria, he had 
traveled widely, studying and teaching at some of the outstanding 


Libya: A Country Study 

Islamic centers of learning of his day, and his reputation as a scholar 
and holy man had spread throughout North Africa. In 1830 he 
was honored as the Grand Sanusi (as Sanusi al Kabir) by the tribes 
and towns of Tripolitania and Fezzan while passing through on 
his way to Mecca. 

Disturbed by division and dissension within Islam, he believed 
that only a return to the purity of early Islam and its insistence 
on austerity in faith and morals could restore the religion to its 
rightful glory. On the basis of his perception of the state and needs 
of Islam, the Grand Sanusi organized a religious order, founding 
its first lodge (zawiya; pi., zawaayaa — see Glossary) near Mecca in 
1837. Disagreement with the Turkish authorities, however, forced 
his return to North Africa. He had originally intended to return 
to Algeria, but the expansion of the French occupation there 
determined that he settle in Cyrenaica, where the loose hold exer- 
cised by Turkish authorities permitted an atmosphere more con- 
genial to his teaching. The tribesmen of the interior were 
particularly receptive to his ideas, and in 1843 he founded the first 
Cyrenaican lodge at Al Bayda. 

The Grand Sanusi did not tolerate fanaticism. He forbade the 
use of stimulants as well as the practice of voluntary poverty. Lodge 
members were to eat and dress within the limits of religious law 
and, instead of depending on alms, were required to earn their living 
through work. No aids to contemplation, such as the processions, 
gyrations, and mutilations employed by Sufi dervishes, were per- 
mitted. The Grand Sanusi accepted neither the wholly intui- 
tive ways described by the Sufi mystics nor the rationality of 
the orthodox ulama; rather, he attempted to adapt from both. The 
beduins had shown no interest in the ecstatic practices of the Sufis 
that were gaining adherents in the towns, but they were attracted 
in great numbers to the Sanusis. The relative austerity of the Sanusi 
message was especially suited to the character of the Cyrenaican 
beduins, whose way of life had not changed markedly in the cen- 
turies since the Arabs had first accepted the Prophet's teach- 

The leaders of the Sanusi movement encouraged the beduins 
to render to the Grand Sanusi a reverence that verged on venera- 
tion of him as a saint, an act forbidden in orthodox Islam. In fact, 
the tribesmen regarded him as a marabout and, indeed, this was 
the indispensable basis of their attachment to him. In no other way 
could an outsider like Muhammad ibn Ali have won their allegiance. 
The Sanusi order ultimately permitted its leaders to transform their 
baraka (see Glossary) as holy men into a potent political force capable 
of holding together a national movement. 


Historical Setting 

To the single lodge founded at Al Bayda in 1843 was eventually 
added a network of lodges throughout Cyrenaica that bound 
together the tribal system of the region. The lodge filled an impor- 
tant place in the lives of the tribesmen. Besides its obvious func- 
tion as a religious center and conduit of baraka to the tribe, it was 
also a school, caravansary, social and commercial center^ court of 
law, and haven for the poor. It provided a place of high culture 
and safety in the desert wilderness. 

Before his death in 1859, the Grand Sanusi established the 
order's center at Al Jaghbub, which lay at the intersection of the 
pilgrimage route to Mecca and the main trade route between the 
Sudan and the coast. There he founded a respected Islamic school, 
as well as a training center for lodge shaykhs. He hoped by this 
move to facilitate expanded Sanusi missionary activities in the Sahel 
and in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Grand Sanusi' s son, Muhammad, succeeded him as the 
order's leader. Because of his forceful personality and his outstand- 
ing organizational talents, Muhammad brought the order to the 
peak of its influence and was recognized as the Mahdi. In 1895 
the Mahdi moved the order's headquarters 650 kilometers south 
from Al Jaghbub to the oasis of Al Kufrah. There he could better 
supervise missionary activities that were threatened by the advance 
of French colonialism in the Sudan, which he viewed in religious 
terms as Christian intervention into Muslim territory. Although 
the order had never used force in its missionary activities, the Mahdi 
proclaimed a holy war (jihad — see Glossary) to resist French in- 
roads and brought the Sanusis into confrontation for the first time 
with a European power. When the Mahdi died in 1902, he left 
146 lodges in Africa and Arabia and had brought virtually all the 
beduins of Cyrenaica under the order's influence. Under the aegis 
of the order, the tribes of Cyrenaica owed loyalty to a single leader, 
despite their otherwise extremely divisive rivalries and feuds. Thus 
a loose umbrella organization forged these otherwise disparate ele- 
ments into a common unit bound by sentiment and loyalty. 

Upon the Mahdi' s death he was succeeded by Ahmad ash Sharif, 
who governed the order as regent for his young cousin, Muham- 
mad Idris as Sanusi (later King Idris of Libya). Ahmad's campaign 
against French forces was a failure and brought on the destruction 
of many Sanusi missions in West Africa. 

Italian Colonialism 

Italy, which became a unified state only in 1860, was a late starter 
in the race for colonies. For the Italians, the marginal Turkish 
provinces in Libya seemed to offer an obvious compensation for 


Libya: A Country Study 

their humiliating acquiescence to the establishment of a French pro- 
tectorate in Tunisia, a country coveted by Italy as a potential colony. 
Italy intensified its long-standing commercial interests in Libya and, 
in a series of diplomatic maneuvers, won from the major powers 
their recognition of an Italian sphere of influence there. It was 
assumed in European capitals that Italy would sooner or later seize 
the opportunity to take political and military action in Libya as well. 

In September 1911 Italy engineered a crisis with Turkey charg- 
ing that the Turks had committed a "hostile act" by arming Arab 
tribesmen in Libya. When Turkey refused to respond to an ulti- 
matum calling for Italian military occupation to protect Italian inter- 
ests in the region, Italy declared war. After a preliminary naval 
bombardment, Italian troops landed and captured Tripoli on 
October 3, encountering only slight resistance. Italian forces also 
occupied Tobruk, Al Khums, Darnah, and Benghazi. 

In the ensuing months, the Italian expeditionary force, num- 
bering 35,000, barely penetrated beyond its several beachheads. 
The 5,000 Turkish troops defending the provinces at the time of 
the invasion withdrew inland a few kilometers, where officers such 
as Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) organized the Arab 
tribes in a resistance to the Italians that took on the aspects of a 
holy war. But with war threatening in the Balkans, Turkey was 
compelled to sue for peace with Italy. In accordance with the treaty 
signed at Lausanne in October 1912, the sultan issued a decree 
granting independence to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica while Italy 
simultaneously announced its formal annexation of those territo- 
ries. The sultan, in his role as caliph (leader of Islam), was to retain 
his religious jurisdiction there and was permitted to appoint the 
qadi of Tripoli, who supervised the sharia courts. But the Italians 
were unable to appreciate that no distinction was made between 
civil and religious jurisdiction in Islamic law. Thus, through the 
courts, the Turks kept open a channel of influence over their former 
subjects and subverted Italian authority. Peace with Turkey meant 
for Italy the beginning of a twenty-year colonial war in Libya. 

Italian Rule and Arab Resistance 

For many Arabs, Turkey's surrender in Libya was a betrayal 
of Muslim interests to the infidels. The 1912 Treaty of Lausanne 
was meaningless to the beduin tribesmen who continued their war 
against the Italians, in some areas with the aid of Turkish troops 
left behind in the withdrawal. Fighting in Cyrenaica was conducted 
by Sanusi units under Ahmad ash Sharif, whose followers in Fezzan 
and southern Tripolitania prevented Italian consolidation in those 
areas as well. Lacking the unity imposed by the Sanusis, resistance 


Historical Setting 

in northern Tripolitania was isolated, and tribal rivalries made it 
less effective. Urban nationalists in Tripoli theorized about the pos- 
sibility of establishing a Tripolitanian republic, perhaps associat- 
ed with Italy, while Suleiman Baruni, a Berber and a former 
member of the Turkish parliament, proclaimed an independent 
but short-lived Berber state in the Gharyan region. For the beduins, 
however, unencumbered by any sense of nationhood, the purpose 
of the struggle against the colonial power was defending Islam and 
the free life they had always enjoyed in their tribal territory. 

In 1914 the Sanusis counterattacked in Fezzan, quickly wiping 
out recent Italian gains there, and in April 1915 they inflicted heavy 
casualties on an Italian column at Qasr Bu Hadi in the Sirtica. 
Captured rifles, artillery, and munitions fueled a subsequent Sanusi 
strike into Tripolitania, but the success of the campaign was com- 
promised by the traditional hostility that existed between the beduins 
and the nationalists. 

When Italy joined the Allied Powers in 1915, the first Italo-Sanusi 
war (1914-17) in Cyrenaica became part of the world war. Ger- 
many and Turkey sent arms and advisers to Ahmad, who aligned 
the Sanusis with the Central Powers with the objective of tying down 
Italian and British troops in North Africa. In 1916, however, Turk- 
ish officers led the Sanusis on a campaign into Egypt, where they 
were routed by British forces. Ahmad gave up Sanusi political and 
military leadership to Idris and fled to Turkey aboard a German 
submarine. The pro-British Idris opened negotiations with the Allies 
on behalf of Cyrenaica in 1917. The result was, in effect, a truce 
rather than a conclusive peace treaty, for neither the Italians nor 
the Sanusis fully surrendered their claims and control in the region. 
Britain and Italy recognized Idris as amir of interior Cyrenaica, 
with the condition that Sanusi attacks on coastal towns and into 
Egypt cease. Further consideration of Cyrenaica' s status was de- 
ferred until after the war. 

Although the victorious Allied Powers accepted Italy's sovereignty 
in Libya, Italian forces there at the end of World War I were still 
confined to the coastal enclaves, sometimes under conditions of 
siege. A campaign was initiated to consolidate and expand Italian- 
held territory in 1919, but the colonial policy pursued by the Italian 
government was moderate and accommodating. Steps were taken 
toward granting limited political rights to the people in occupied 
areas. The provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania were treated 
as separate colonies, and Fezzan was organized as a military terri- 
tory. The Fundamental Law approved by the Italian parliament 
in 1919 provided for provincial parliaments and for local advisory 
councils appointed by the Italian governors and district executives 
in the occupied areas. 


Libya: A Country Study 

The different settlements that Italy made in Tripolitania and 
Cyrenaica, however, did illustrate graphically the dissimilarities 
in the situations of the two provinces as they were perceived by 
Italian authorities. In 1920 an accord was reached between Italy 
and the Sanusi leaders that confirmed Idris as amir of Cyrenaica 
and recognized his virtual independence in an immense area in 
the interior that encompassed all the principal oases. Italy provided 
a subsidy to the amir's government, and Sanusi shaykhs, holding 
seats in the Cyrenaican parliament, participated in the government 
of the entire province. Idris was also allowed to retain the Sanusi 
army, although its units were to be stationed in "mixed camps" 
with Italian forces. By this arrangement, the Italian government 
officially accepted Idris as both secular and religious leader of the 
Cyrenaican tribes, but in effect it did not extend his political power 
beyond what he already exercised as head of the Sanusi order. 

Clearly, the Rome government had not formulated a coherent 
policy toward a country that had not been conquered and whose 
people were dubious about the benefits of Italian rule. But because 
the Italians never faced a credible, united opposition in Tripolitania, 
they were not under comparable pressure there to yield the con- 
cessions they had made in Cyrenaica. Tripolitania lacked the leader- 
ship and organizational structure that Idris and the Sanusi order 
gave to Cyrenaica. The most prominent Tripolitanian nationalist 
was Ramadan as Suwaythi, who had by turns cooperated with the 
Italians, supported the Sanusis, and eventually fought against them 
both. His rival, Baruni, who had acted during the war as Otto- 
man "governor" in Tripolitania with German backing, was mis- 
trusted by the Arab nationalists. Tribal rivalries were intense, and 
the aims of the beduin shaykhs and the nationalists were fundamen- 
tally different, the latter being concerned with forming a central- 
ized republic while the former were interested primarily in creating 
tribal states. 

A prominent pan- Arab nationalist, the Egyptian Abdar Rahman 
Azzam, persuaded Suwaythi and Baruni to cooperate in demand- 
ing Italian recognition of an independent republic that was called 
into being at Misratah in 1919. Talks with the Italians broke down 
when the Misratah republic's governing body, the so-called Reform 
Committee, claimed jurisdiction over Libya rather than over Tri- 
politania only. In 1920 delegates from both occupied and unoc- 
cupied zones convened the National Congress at Aziza. Claiming 
to represent the "Tripolitanian Nation," they called for the with- 
drawal of the Italian forces. No nationalist movement, however, 
was able to rally the country behind it. 


Historical Setting 

Even delegates to the National Congress had been sharply divided 
on the degree of cooperation with Italy they would allow. Rival 
delegations beat a path to Rome with their petitions for recogni- 
tion. Meanwhile, Count Giuseppe Volpi, a vigorous and deter- 
mined governor, gave decisive direction to Italian policy in 
Tripolitania with his advocacy of military pacification rather than 
negotiation. The nationalists lost their most effective leaders when 
Baruni defected to the Italians as a result of hostility between Arabs 
and Berbers, which Volpi successfully exploited, and Suwaythi was 
killed by his political rivals. 

In this situation, the Tripolitanian nationalists met with the 
Sanusis at Surt early in 1922 and offered to accept Idris as amir 
of Tripolitania. Idris had never sought any title other than the one 
he held in Cyrenaica, and he was not anxious to extend either 
his political influence or his religious leadership to northern 
Tripolitania, where neither he nor the Sanusi order was widely 
popular. He had always refused aid to Tripolitanian nationalists 
and under the circumstances considered their offer to have been 
made for reasons of expediency, that is, because there was no 
alternative candidate for leadership apparent at the time. Idris' 
acceptance, as the nationalists understood, would draw sharp Italian 
disapproval and be the signal for the resumption of open warfare. 
War with Italy, in any event, appeared likely sooner or later. For 
several months, Idris pondered the nationalist appeal. For whatever 
reason — perhaps to further the cause of total independence or 
perhaps out of a sense of religious obligation to resist the infidel — 
Idris accepted the amirate of all Libya in November and then, to 
avoid capture by the Italians, fled to Egypt, where he continued 
to guide the Sanusi order. 

The Second Italo-Sanusi War 

Italian colonial policy was abruptly altered with the acces- 
sion to power of Mussolini's fascist government in October 1922. 
Mussolini, the one-time critic of colonialism, wholeheartedly en- 
dorsed Volpi' s policy of military pacification and, although accurate 
intelligence was lacking in Rome, he fully supported the deci- 
sions made in the field by army commanders. The 1923 Treaty 
of Lausanne between the Allied Powers — including Italy — and 
Ataturk's new government in Turkey made final the dismember- 
ment of the old Ottoman Empire and provided conclusive inter- 
national sanction for Italy's annexation of Libya. 

The second Italo-Sanusi war commenced early in 1923 with the 
Italian occupation of Sanusi territory in the Benghazi area. 
Resistance in Cyrenaica was fierce from the outset, but northern 


Libya: A Country Study 


Mediterranean Sea 

Tripoli Ai Knums 



J a g h b u b I 


ALGERIA >s^;/ 


Kuirah I 

- International boundary 
] Territory held in 1921 
1 Pacified 1922 
1 Pacified 1923-24 

ty---~--] Pacified 1925-28 
WgM Pacified 1929-30 
1 1 Pacified 1930 

Graziani's wire barrier 
^ Battle 

50 100 200 Kilometers 
I r 1 H 1 

50 100 

200 Miles 


t Aooz< 


Sarra j" - 






Boundary representation 
not necessarily ot/ffionfotive 




Figure 3. The Italian Conquest of Libya, 1921-31 

Tripolitania was subdued in 1923, and its southern region and 
Fezzan were gradually pacified over the next several years. Dur- 
ing the whole period, however, the principal Italian theater of opera- 
tions was Cyrenaica (see fig. 3). 

In Idris' absence a hardy but aging shaykh, Umar al Mukhtar, 
had overall command of Sanusi fighting forces in Cyrenaica, never 
numbering more than a few thousand organized in tribal units. 


Historical Setting 

Mukhtar, a veteran of many campaigns, was a master of desert 
guerrilla tactics. Leading small, mobile bands, he attacked outposts, 
ambushed troop columns, cut lines of supply and communication, 
and then faded into the familiar terrain. Italian forces, under 
Rudolfo Graziani's command after 1929, were largely composed 
of Eritreans. Unable to fight a decisive battle with the Sanusis, 
Graziani imposed an exhausting war of attrition, conducting un- 
remitting search-and-destroy missions with armored columns and 
air support against the oases and tribal camps that sheltered 
Mukhtar' s men. Troops herded beduins into concentration camps, 
blocked wells, and slaughtered livestock. In 1930 Graziani directed 
construction of a barbed-wire barrier 9 meters wide and 1 . 5 meters 
high stretching 320 kilometers from the coast south along the Egyp- 
tian frontier to cut Mukhtar off from his sanctuaries and sources 
of supply across the border. The area around the barrier, constantly 
patrolled by armor and aircraft, was designated a free-fire zone. 
The Italians' superior manpower and technology began to take their 
toll on the Libyans, but Mukhtar fought on with his steadily dwin- 
dling numbers in a shrinking theater of operations, more from habit 
than from conviction that the Italians could be dislodged from 

Al Kufrah, the last Sanusi stronghold, fell in 1931, and in Sep- 
tember of that year Mukhtar was captured. After a summary court- 
martial, he was hanged before a crowd of 20,000 Arabs assembled 
to witness the event. With the death of Mukhtar, Sanusi resistance 
collapsed, and the Italian pacification of Libya was completed. Even 
in defeat, Mukhtar remained a symbol of Arab defiance to colonial 
domination, and he was revered as a national hero. 

The Fourth Shore 

Once pacification had been accomplished, fascist Italy endeavored 
to convert Libya into an Italian province to be referred to popu- 
larly as Italy's Fourth Shore. In 1934 Tripolitania and Cyrenaica 
were divided into four provinces — Tripoli, Misratah, Benghazi, 
and Darnah — which were formally linked as a single colony known 
as Libya, thus officially resurrecting the name that Diocletian had 
applied nearly 1,500 years earlier. Fezzan, designated as South 
Tripolitania, remained a military territory. A governor general, 
called the first consul after 1937, was in overall direction of the 
colony, assisted by the General Consultative Council, on which 
Arabs were represented. Traditional tribal councils, formerly sanc- 
tioned by the Italian administration, were abolished, and all local 
officials were thereafter appointed by the governor general. Admin- 
istrative posts at all levels were held by Italians. 


Libya: A Country Study 

An accord with Britain and Egypt obtained the transfer of a 
corner of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, known as the Sarra Trian- 
gle, to Italian control in 1934. The next year, a French-Italian agree- 
ment was negotiated that relocated the 1,000-kilometer border 
between Libya and Chad southward about 100 kilometers across 
the Aouzou Strip (see Glossary), but this territorial concession to 
Italy was never ratified by the French legislature. In 1939 Libya 
was incorporated into metropolitan Italy. 

During the 1930s, impressive strides were made in improving 
the country's economic and transportation infrastructure. Italy 
invested capital and technology in public works projects, exten- 
sion and modernization of cities, highway and railroad construc- 
tion, expanded port facilities, and irrigation, but these measures 
were introduced to benefit the Italian-controlled modern sector of 
the economy. Italian development policy after World War I had 
called for capital-intensive "economic colonization" intended to 
promote the maximum exploitation of the resources available. One 
of the initial Italian objectives in Libya, however, had been the 
relief of overpopulation and unemployment in Italy through emigra- 
tion to the undeveloped colony. With security established, system- 
atic "demographic colonization" was encouraged by Mussolini's 
government. A project initiated by Libya's governor, Italo Balbo, 
brought the first 20,000 settlers — the ventimilli — to Libya in a sin- 
gle convoy in October 1938. More settlers followed in 1939, and 
by 1940 there were approximately 110,000 Italians in Libya, con- 
stituting about 12 percent of the total population. Plans envisioned 
an Italian colony of 500,000 settlers by the 1960s. Libya's best land 
was allocated to the settlers to be brought under productive culti- 
vation, primarily in olive groves. Settlement was directed by a state 
corporation, the Libyan Colonization Society, which undertook land 
reclamation and the building of model villages and offered a grub- 
stake and credit facilities to the settlers it had sponsored. 

The Italians made modern medical care available for the first 
time in Libya, improved sanitary conditions in the towns, and 
undertook to replenish the herds and flocks that had been depleted 
during the war. But, although Mussolini liked to refer to the Libyans 
as "Muslim Italians," little more was accomplished that directly 
improved the living standards of the Arab population. Beduin life 
was disrupted as tribal grazing lands — considered underutilized by 
European standards but potentially fertile if reclaimed — were pur- 
chased or confiscated for distribution to Italian settlers. Complete 
neglect of education for Arabs prevented the development of profes- 
sional and technical training, creating a shortage of skilled workers, 
technicians, and administrators that had not been alleviated in the 


Historical Setting 

late 1980s. Sanusi leaders were harried out of the country, lodges 
broken up, and the order suppressed, although not extinguished. 

World War II and Independence 

As Europe prepared for war, Libyan nationalists at home and 
in exile perceived that the best chance for liberation from colonial 
domination lay in Italy's defeat in a larger conflict. Such an oppor- 
tunity seemed to arise when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, but 
Mussolini's defiance of the League of Nations and the feeble reac- 
tion of Britain and France dashed Libyan hopes for the time be- 
ing. Planning for liberation resumed, however, with the outbreak 
of war in Europe in September 1939. Libyan political leaders met 
in Alexandria, Egypt, in October to resolve past differences in the 
interest of future unity. Idris was accepted as leader of the nation- 
alist cause by Tripolitanians as well as Cyrenaicans, with the proviso 
that he designate an advisory committee with representatives from 
both regions to assist him. Differences between the two groups were 
too deep and long held, however, for the committee to work well. 

When Italy entered the war on the side of Germany on June 
10, 1940, the Cyrenaican leaders, who for some months had been 
in contact with British military officers in Egypt, immediately 
declared their support for the Allies. In Tripolitania, where Italian 
control was strongest, some opinion initially opposed cooperation 
with Britain on the ground that if the Allies lost — which seemed 
highly possible in 1940 — retribution would be severe. But the 
Cyrenaicans, with their long history of resistance to the Italians, 
were anxious to resume the conflict and reminded the timid 
Tripolitanians that conditions in the country could be no worse 
than they already were. Idris pointed out that it would be of little 
use to expect the British to support Libyan independence after the 
war if Libyans had not cooperated actively with them during the 

Idris presided over a meeting of Libyan leaders hastily summoned 
to Cairo in August 1940, at which formal arrangements for coopera- 
tion with British military authorities were initiated. Delegates to 
the conference expressed full confidence in Idris in a resolution and 
granted him extensive powers to negotiate with the British for 
Libya's independence. The resolution stated further that Libyan 
participation with British forces should be "under the banner of 
the Sanusi Amirate" and that a "provisional Sanusi government" 
should be established. 

Although a number of Tripolitanian representatives agreed to 
participate, the resolution was essentially a Cyrenaican measure 
adopted over the objections of the Tripolitanian nationalists. The 


Libya: A Country Study 

Tripolitanians, suspicious of the ties between Idris and the British, 
held that a definite statement endorsing Libyan independence 
should have been obtained from Britain before Idris committed 
Libya to full-scale military cooperation. Also, although the Tri- 
politanians were reluctantly willing to accept Idris as their politi- 
cal chief, they rejected any religious connection with the Sanusi 
order. Hence they objected to the use of the term Sanusi through- 
out the resolution in place of Libya or even Cyrenaica. These two 
areas of objection — the extent of the commitment to Britain and 
the role of the Sanusi order in an independent, united Libya — 
constituted the main elements of internal political dissension dur- 
ing the war and early postwar years. 

British officials maintained that major postwar agreements or 
guarantees could not be undertaken while the war was still in 
progress. Although he endeavored from time to time to secure a 
more favorable British commitment, Idris generally accepted this 
position and counseled his followers to have patience. Clearly, many 
of them were not enthusiastic about Libyan unity and would 
have been satisfied with the promise of a Sanusi government in 
Cyrenaica. After the August 1940 resolution, five Libyan battal- 
ions were organized by the British, recruited largely from Cyrenai- 
can veterans of the Italo-Sanusi wars. The Libyan Arab Force, 
better known as the Sanusi Army, served with distinction under 
British command through the campaigns of the desert war that 
ended in the liberation of Cyrenaica. 

In a speech in the House of Commons in January 1942, British 
Foreign Minister Anthony Eden acknowledged and welcomed "the 
contribution which Sayid Idris as Sanusi and his followers have 
made and are making' ' to the Allied war effort. He added that the 
British government was determined that the Sanusis in Cyrenaica 
should "in no circumstances again fall under Italian domination." 
No further commitment was made, and this statement, which made 
no mention of an independent Libya, remained the official British 
position during the war. 

The Desert War 

North Africa was a major theater of operations in World War 
II, and the war shifted three times across the face of Cyrenaica, 
a region described by one German general as a "tactician's para- 
dise and a quartermaster's hell" because there were no natural 
defense positions between Al Agheila and Al Alamein to obstruct 
the tanks that fought fluid battles in the desert like warships at sea, 
and there was only one major highway on the coast along which 
to supply the quick-moving armies. The Italians invaded Egypt 


Historical Setting 

in September 1940, but the drive stalled at Sidi Barrani for want 
of logistical support. British Empire forces of the Army of the Nile, 
under General Archibald Wavell, counterattacked sharply in 
December, advancing as far as Tobruk by the end of the month. 
In February 1941, the Italian Tenth Army surrendered, netting 
Wavell 150,000 prisoners and leaving all of Cyrenaica in British 
hands. At no time during the campaign did Wavell have more than 
two full divisions at his disposal against as many as ten Italian 

In March and April, Axis forces, stiffened by the arrival of the 
German Afrika Korps commanded by Lieutenant General Erwin 
Rommel, launched an offensive into Cyrenaica that cut off British 
troops at Tobruk. The battle seesawed back and forth in the desert 
as Rommel attempted to stabilize his lines along the Egyptian fron- 
tier before dealing with Tobruk in his rear, but in November Brit- 
ish Eighth Army commander General Claude Auchinleck caught 
him off balance with a thrust into Cyrenaica that succeeded in reliev- 
ing Tobruk, where the garrison had held out for seven months be- 
hind its defense perimeter. Auchinleck 's offensive failed in its second 
objective — cutting off Rommel from his line of retreat. 

Rommel pulled back in good order to Al Agheila, where his 
troops refitted for a new offensive in January 1942 that was in- 
tended to take the Axis forces to the Suez Canal. Rommel's initial 
attack was devastating in its boldness and swiftness. Cyrenaica had 
been retaken by June; Tobruk fell in a day. Rommel drove into 
Egypt, but his offensive was halted at Al Alamein, 100 kilometers 
from Alexandria. The opposing armies settled down into a stale- 
mate in the desert as British naval and air power interdicted Ger- 
man convoys and road transport, gradually starving Rommel of 
supplies and reinforcements. 

Late in October the Eighth Army, under the command of Gen- 
eral Bernard Montgomery, broke through the Axis lines at Al 
Alamein in a massive offensive that sent German and Italian forces 
into a headlong retreat. The liberation of Cyrenaica was completed 
for the second time in November. Tripoli fell to the British in Janu- 
ary 1943, and by mid-February the last Axis troops had been driven 
from Libya. 

Allied Administration 

Separate British military governments were established in 
Cyrenaica and in Tripolitania and continued to function until Libya 
achieved independence. Each was divided into several districts 
governed by civil affairs officers who reported to brigadiers at se- 
nior headquarters in Benghazi and Tripoli. British authority was 


Libya: A Country Study 

exercised under the Hague Convention, which conveyed legisla- 
tive, administrative, and judicial power to an occupying country. 
It was essentially a caretaker operation, the initial objective sim- 
ply being to maintain peace and order and facilitate the war effort. 
British military officers and government emphatically stressed the 
nonpolitical character of the occupation government. 

The British administration began the training of a badly needed 
Libyan civil service. Italian administrators continued to be em- 
ployed in Tripoli, however. The Italian legal code remained in effect 
for the duration of the war. In the lightly populated Fezzan region, 
a French military administration formed a counterpart to the British 
operation. With British approval, Free French forces moved north 
from Chad to take control of the territory in January 1943. French 
administration was directed by a staff stationed in Sabha, but it 
was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf 
an Nasr. At the lower echelons, French troop commanders acted 
in both military and civil capacities according to customary French 
practice in the Algerian Sahara. In the west, Ghat was attached 
to the French military region of southern Algeria and Ghadamis 
to the French command of southern Tunisia — giving rise to Libyan 
nationalist fears that French intentions might include the ultimate 
detachment of Fezzan from Libya. 

The United Nations and Libya 

Disposition of Italian colonial holdings was a question that had 
to be considered before the peace treaty officially ending the war 
with Italy could be completed. Technically, Libya remained an 
Italian possession administered by Britain and France, but at the 
Potsdam Conference in 1945 the Allies — Britain, the Soviet Union, 
and the United States — agreed that the Italian colonies seized during 
the war should not be returned to Italy. Further consideration of 
the question was delegated to the Allied Council of Foreign 
Ministers, which included a French representative; although all 
council members initially favored some form of trusteeship, no for- 
mula could be devised for disposing of Libya. The United States 
suggested a trusteeship for the whole country under control of the 
United Nations (UN), whose charter had become effective in 
October 1945, to prepare it for self-government. The Soviet Union 
proposed separate provincial trusteeships, claiming Tripolitania for 
itself and assigning Fezzan to France and Cyrenaica to Britain. 
France, seeing no end to the discussions, advocated the return of 
the territory to Italy. To break the impasse, Britain finally recom- 
mended immediate independence for Libya. 


Historical Setting 

The peace treaty, in which Italy renounced all claims to its Afri- 
can possessions, was signed in February 1947 and became effec- 
tive in September. The language of the treaty was vague on the 
subject of colonies, adding only that these territories should "remain 
in their present state until their future is decided." This indefinite 
proviso disappointed Libyan leaders, who had earlier been alarmed 
at Italian diplomatic agitation for return of the colonies. Libyans 
were apprehensive that Italian hegemony might return in some 
ostensibly nonpolitical guise if Italy were given responsibility for 
preparing the country for independence. 

By mutual agreement the settlement of the Italian colonies was 
postponed for a year after the treaty became effective, during which 
time the Big Four (Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the 
United States) were to search for a solution. If none could be found, 
the question was to be put before the UN General Assembly. A 
four-power commission of investigation was appointed to ascer- 
tain what the Libyan people desired. Although the various regional 
parties split over the question of the future status of their respec- 
tive provinces, the majority of Libyans favored independence. The 
commission, however, decided that the country was not ready for 
self-government. Other governments interested in the settlement 
of the problem, notably Italy and Egypt, were consulted. In all 
cases, conflicting interests prevented any solution, and in due course 
the Libyan question was placed on the agenda of the General As- 

Idris had returned to Libya to a tumultuous welcome in 1944, 
but he declined to take up residence there until satisfied that all 
constraints of foreign control not subject to his agreement had been 
removed. At British urging, he resumed permanent residence in 
Cyrenaica in 1947; in 1949, with British backing, he unilaterally 
proclaimed Cyrenaica an independent amirate. 

In the meantime, Britain and Italy had placed the Bevin-Sforza 
plan (after Ernest Bevin and Carlo Sforza, foreign ministers of its 
respective sponsors) before the UN for its consideration. Under 
this plan, Libya would come under UN trusteeship, and responsi- 
bility for administration in Tripolitania would be delegated to Italy, 
in Cyrenaica to Britain, and in Fezzan to France. At the end of 
ten years, Libya would become independent. Over Libyan pro- 
tests, the plan was adopted by the UN Political Committee in May 
1949, only to fall short by one vote of the two-thirds majority re- 
quired for adoption by the General Assembly. No further proposals 
were submitted, but protracted negotiations led to a compromise 
solution that was embodied in a UN resolution in November 1949. 
This resolution called for the establishment of a sovereign state 


Libya: A Country Study 

including all three historic regions of Libya by January 1952. A 
UN commissioner and the so-called Council of Ten — composed 
of a representative from each of the three provinces, one for the 
Libyan minorities, and one each for Egypt, France, Italy, Pakistan, 
Britain, and the United States — were to guide Libya through the 
period of transition to independence and to assist a Libyan national 
assembly in drawing up a constitution. In the final analysis, inde- 
cision on the part of the major powers had precipitated the crea- 
tion of an independent state and forced the union of provinces 
hitherto divided by geography and history. 

The General Assembly named Adrian Pelt of the Netherlands 
as commissioner for Libya. Severe problems confronted him and 
his staff in preparing for independence an economically backward 
and politically inexperienced country, almost totally lacking in 
trained managerial and technical personnel, physicians, and 
teachers. Of Libya's approximately 1 million inhabitants, at least 
90 percent were illiterate. Libya's biggest source of income was 
from scrap metal salvaged from the World War II battiefields. There 
were no known natural resources — even Libya's sand was inade- 
quate for glassmaking — and it was obvious that the country would 
be dependent on foreign economic aid for an indefinite period. Pelt 
argued forcefully that Italian settlers should be encouraged to re- 
main in Libya, first, because the land they worked was private 
property that could not be expropriated legally, and, second, be- 
cause their presence represented a long-term investment that was 
essential to any further economic development in the country. 

Historically, the administration of Libya had been united for 
only a few years — and those under Italian rule. Many groups vied 
for influence over the people but, although al 1 parties desired 
independence, there was no consensus as to what form of govern- 
ment was to be established. The social basis of political organiza- 
tion varied from region to region. In Cyrenaica and Fezzan, the 
tribe was the chief focus of social identification, even in an urban 
context. Idris had wide appeal in the former as head of the Sanusi 
order, while in the latter the Sayf an Nasr clan commanded a fol- 
lowing as paramount tribal chieftains. In Tripolitania, by contrast, 
loyalty that in a social context was reserved largely to the family 
and kinship group could be transferred more easily to a political 
party and its leader. Tripolitanians, following the lead of Bashir 
as Sadawi's National Congress Party, pressed for a republican form 
of government in a unitary state. Inasmuch as their region had 
a significantly larger population and a relatively more advanced 
economy than the other two, they expected that under a unitary 
political system political power would gravitate automatically to 


Historical Setting 

Tripoli. Cyrenaicans, who had achieved a larger degree of cohe- 
sion under Sanusi leadership, feared the chaos they saw in Tripoli- 
tania and the threat of being swamped politically by the Tripoli- 
tanians in a unitary state. Guided by the National Front, endorsed 
by Idris initially to advocate unilateral independence for Cyrenaica, 
they backed formation of a federation with a weak central govern- 
ment that would permit local autonomy under Idris as amir. But 
even in Cyrenaica a cleavage existed between an older generation 
that thought instinctively in provincial terms and a younger gen- 
eration — many of whom were influenced by their membership in 
the Umar al Mukhtar Club, a political action group first formed 
in 1942 with Idris' blessing but by 1947 tending toward republi- 
can and nationalist views — whose outlook reflected the rise of pan- 
Arab political nationalism, already a strong force in the Middle 
East and growing in Libya. 

To implement the General Assembly's directive, Pelt approved 
the appointment of the Preparatory Committee of Twenty-One to 
determine the composition of a national constitutional convention. 
The committee included seven members from each province, nomi- 
nated in Cyrenaica by Idris, in Fezzan by the Sayf an Nasr chief- 
tains, and in Tripolitania by the grand mufti (chief religious judge) 
of Tripoli, who also acted as its chairman. Nationalists objected 
that the committee represented traditional regional interests and 
could not reflect the will of the Libyan people as the General 
Assembly had intended 

The product of the committee's deliberations was the creation 
of the National Constituent Assembly, in which each of the three 
provinces was equally represented. Meeting for the first time in 
November 1950, the assembly approved a federal system of govern- 
ment with a monarchy, despite dissent from Tripolitanian delegates, 
and offered the throne to Idris. Committees of the assembly drafted 
a constitution, which was duly adopted in October 1951. Mean- 
while, internal administrative authority had already been trans- 
ferred by British and French administrations to the regional 
governments — and in Cyrenaica to the independent Sanusi amirate. 
On December 24, 1951 , King Idris I proclaimed the independence 
of the United Kingdom of Libya as a sovereign state. 

Independent Libya 

Under the constitution of October 1951, the federal monarchy 
of Libya was headed by King Idris as chief of state, with succes- 
sion to his designated heirs. Substantial political power resided with 
the king. The executive arm of the government consisted of a prime 
minister and Council of Ministers designated by the king but also 


Libya: A Country Study 

responsible to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of a bi- 
cameral legislature. The Senate, or upper house, consisted of eight 
representatives from each of the three provinces. Half of the sena- 
tors were nominated by the king, who also had the right to veto 
legislation and to dissolve the lower house. Local autonomy in the 
provinces was exercised through provincial governments and legis- 
latures. Benghazi and Tripoli served alternately as the national 

Several factors, rooted in Libya's history, affected the political 
development of the newly independent country. They reflected the 
differing political orientations of the provinces and the ambigui- 
ties inherent in Libya's monarchy. First, after the first general elec- 
tions, which were held on February 19, 1952, political parties were 
abolished. The National Congress Party, which had campaigned 
against a federal form of government, was defeated throughout the 
country. The party was outlawed, and Sadawi was deported. 
Second, provincial ties continued to be more important than na- 
tional ones, and the federal and provincial governments were con- 
stantly in dispute over their respective spheres of authority. A third 
problem derived from the lack of a direct heir to the throne. To 
remedy this situation, Idris in 1953 designated his sixty-year-old 
brother to succeed him. When the original heir apparent died, the 
king appointed his nephew, Prince Hasan ar Rida, his successor. 

In its foreign policy, Libya maintained a pro- Western stance and 
was recognized as belonging to the conservative traditionalist bloc 
in the League of Arab States (Arab League), of which it became 
a member in 1953. The same year Libya concluded a twenty-year 
treaty of friendship and alliance with Britain under which the latter 
received military bases in exchange for financial and military as- 
sistance. The next year, Libya and the United States signed an 
agreement under which the United States also obtained military 
base rights, subject to renewal in 1970, in return for economic aid 
to Libya. The most important of the United States installations 
in Libya was Wheelus Air Base, near Tripoli, considered a stra- 
tegically valuable installation in the 1950s and early 1960s. Reser- 
vations set aside in the desert were used by British and American 
military aircraft based in Europe as practice firing ranges. Libya 
forged close ties with France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, and estab- 
lished full diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1955, but 
declined a Soviet offer of economic aid. 

As part of a broad assistance package, the UN Technical Assist- 
ance Board agreed to sponsor a technical aid program that empha- 
sized the development of agriculture and education. Foreign powers, 
notably Britain and the United States, provided development 


aid. Steady economic improvement occurred, but the pace was slow, 
and Libya remained a poor and underdeveloped country heavily 
dependent on foreign aid. 

This situation changed suddenly and dramatically in June 1959 
when research prospectors from Esso (later renamed Exxon) con- 
firmed the location of major petroleum deposits at Zaltan in 
Cyrenaica. Further discoveries followed, and commercial develop- 
ment was quickly initiated by concession holders who returned 50 
percent of their profits to the Libyan government in taxes. In the 
petroleum market, Libya's advantages lay not only in the quan- 
tity but also in the high quality of its crude product. Libya's prox- 
imity and direct linkage to Europe by sea were further marketing 
advantages. The discovery and exploitation of petroleum turned 
the vast, sparsely populated, impoverished country into an indepen- 
dently wealthy nation with potential for extensive development and 
thus constituted a major turning point in Libyan history (see 
Hydrocarbons and Mining, ch. 3). 

As development of petroleum resources progressed in the early 
1960s, Libya launched its first Five- Year Plan, 1963-68. One nega- 
tive result of the new wealth from petroleum, however, was a decline 
in agricultural production, largely through neglect. Internal Lib- 
yan politics continued to be stable, but the federal form of govern- 
ment had proven inefficient and cumbersome. In April 1963, Prime 
Minister Muhi ad Din Fakini secured adoption by parliament of 


Libya: A Country Study 

a bill, endorsed by the king, that abolished the federal form of 
government, establishing in its place a unitary, monarchical state 
with a dominant central government. By legislation, the historical 
divisions of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan were to be elimi- 
nated and the country divided into ten new provinces, each headed 
by an appointed governor. The legislature revised the constitution 
in 1963 to reflect the change from a federal to a unitary state. 

In regional affairs, Libya enjoyed the advantage of not having 
aggravated boundary disputes with its neighbors. Libya was one 
of the thirty founding members of the Organization of African Unity 
(OAU), established in 1963, and in November 1964 participated 
with Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in forming a joint consultative 
committee aimed at economic cooperation among North African 
states. Although it supported Arab causes, including the Moroc- 
can and Algerian independence movements, Libya took little active 
part in the Arab-Israeli dispute or the tumultuous inter- Arab politics 
of the 1950s and the early 1960s. 

Nevertheless, the brand of Arab nationalism propounded by 
Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser exercised an increasing influence, 
particularly among the younger generation. In response to anti- 
Western agitation in 1964, Libya's essentially pro-Western govern- 
ment requested the evacuation of British and American bases before 
the dates specified in the treaties. Most British forces were in fact 
withdrawn in 1966, although the evacuation of foreign military 
installations, including Wheelus Air Base, was not completed until 
March 1970. 

The June 1967 War between Israel and its Arab neighbors 
aroused a strong reaction in Libya, particularly in Tripoli and Ben- 
ghazi, where dock and oil workers as well as students were involved 
in violent demonstrations. The United States and British embas- 
sies and oil company offices were damaged in rioting. Members 
of the small Jewish community were also attacked, prompting the 
emigration of almost all remaining Libyan Jews. The government 
restored order, but thereafter attempts to modernize the small and 
ineffective Libyan armed forces and to reform the grossly ineffi- 
cient Libyan bureaucracy foundered upon conservative opposition 
to the nature and pace of the proposed reforms. 

Although Libya was clearly on record as supporting Arab causes 
in general, the country did not play an important role in Arab pol- 
itics. At the Arab summit conference held at Khartoum in Sep- 
tember 1967, however, Libya, along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, 
agreed to provide generous subsidies from oil revenues to aid Egypt, 
Syria, and Jordan, defeated in June by Israel. Also, Idris first 
broached the idea of taking collective action to increase the price 


Wheelus Air Base, in the mid-1960s, before 
the United States turned over control to the Qadhafi regime 
Courtesy United States Air Force 

of oil on the world market. Libya, nonetheless, continued its close 
association with the West, while Idris' government steered an 
essentially conservative course at home. 

After the forming of the Libyan state in 1963, Idris' government 
had tried — not very successfully — to promote a sense of Libyan 
nationalism built around the institution of the monarchy. But Idris 
himself was first and foremost a Cyrenaican, never at ease in 
Tripolitania. His political interests were essentially Cyrenaican, 
and he understood that whatever real power he had — and it was 
more considerable than what he derived from the constitution — 
lay in the loyalty he commanded as amir of Cyrenaica and head 
of the Sanusi order. Idris' pro-Western sympathies and identifica- 
tion with the conservative Arab bloc were especially resented by 
an increasingly politicized urban elite that favored nonalignment. 
Aware of the potential of their country's natural wealth, many Lib- 
yans had also become conscious that its benefits reached very few 
of the population. An ominous undercurrent of dissatisfaction with 
corruption and malfeasance in the bureaucracy began to appear 
as well, particularly among young officers of the armed forces who 
were influenced by Nasser's Arab nationalist ideology. 

Alienated from the most populous part of the country, from the 
cities, and from a younger generation of Libyans, Idris spent more 


Libya: A Country Study 

and more time at his palace in Darnah, near the British military 
base. In June 1969, the king left the country for rest and medical 
treatment in Greece and Turkey, leaving Crown Prince Hasan ar 
Rida as regent. 

The September 1969 Coup 

On September 1 , 1969, in a daring coup d'etat, a group of about 
seventy young army officers and enlisted men, mostly assigned to 
the Signal Corps, seized control of the government and in a stroke 
abolished the Libyan monarchy. The coup was launched at Ben- 
ghazi, and within two hours the takeover was completed. Army 
units quickly rallied in support of the coup, and within a few days 
firmly established military control in Tripoli and elsewhere through- 
out the country. Popular reception of the coup, especially by 
younger people in the urban areas, was enthusiastic. Fears of 
resistance in Cyrenaica and Fezzan proved unfounded. No deaths 
or violent incidents related to the coup were reported. 

The Free Officers Movement, which claimed credit for carry- 
ing out the coup, was headed by a twelve-member directorate that 
designated itself the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). This 
body constituted the Libyan government after the coup. In its ini- 
tial proclamation on September 1 , the RCC declared the country 
to be a free and sovereign state called the Libyan Arab Republic, 
which would proceed, with the help of God, "in the path of free- 
dom, unity, and social justice, guaranteeing the right of equality 
to its citizens, and opening before them the doors of honorable 
work." The rule of the Turks and Italians and the "reactionary" 
regime just overthrown were characterized as belonging to "dark 
ages," from which the Libyan people were called to move forward 
as "free brothers" to a new age of prosperity, equality, and honor. 

The RCC advised diplomatic representatives in Libya that the 
revolutionary changes had not been directed from outside the coun- 
try, that existing treaties and agreements would remain in effect, 
and that foreign lives and property would be protected. Diplomatic 
recognition of the new regime came quickly from countries through- 
out the world. United States recognition was officially extended 
on September 6. 

In view of the lack of internal resistance, it appeared that the 
chief danger to the new regime lay in the possibility of a reaction 
inspired by the absent King Idris or his designated heir, Hasan 
ar Rida, who had been taken into custody at the time of the coup 
along with other senior civil and military officials of the royal 


Historical Setting 

Within days of the coup, however, Hasan publicly renounced 
all rights to the throne, stated his support for the new regime, and 
called on the people to accept it without violence. Idris, in an ex- 
change of messages with the RCC through Egypt's President 
Nasser, dissociated himself from reported attempts to secure Brit- 
ish intervention and disclaimed any intention of coming back to 
Libya. In return, he was assured by the RCC of the safety of his 
family still in the country. At his own request and with Nasser's 
approval, Idris took up residence once again in Egypt, where he 
had spent his first exile and where he remained until his death in 

On September 7, 1969, the RCC announced that it had ap- 
pointed a cabinet to conduct the government of the new republic. 
An American-educated technician, Mahmud Sulayman al 
Maghrabi, who had been imprisoned since 1967 for his political 
activities, was designated prime minister. He presided over the 
eight-member Council of Ministers, of whom six, like Maghrabi, 
were civilians and two — Adam Said Hawwaz and Musa Ahmad — 
were military officers. Neither of the officers was a member of the 
RCC. The Council of Ministers was instructed to "implement the 
state's general policy as drawn up by the RCC," leaving no doubt 
where ultimate authority rested. The next day the RCC decided 
to promote Captain Muammar al Qadhafi to colonel and to ap- 
point him commander in chief of the Libyan Armed Forces. 
Although RCC spokesmen declined until January 1970 to reveal 
any other names of RCC members, it was apparent from that date 
onward that the head of the RCC and new de facto head of state 
was the ascetic, deeply religious, twenty-seven-year-old Colonel 

Analysts were quick to point out the striking similarities between 
the Libyan military coup of 1969 and that in Egypt under Nasser 
in 1952, and it became clear that the Egyptian experience and the 
charismatic figure of Nasser had formed the model for the Free 
Officers Movement. As the RCC in the last months of 1969 moved 
vigorously to institute domestic reforms, it proclaimed neutrality 
in the confrontation between the superpowers and opposition to 
all forms of colonialism and "imperialism." It also made clear 
Libya's dedication to Arab unity and to the support of the Pales- 
tinian cause against Israel. The RCC reaffirmed the country's iden- 
tity as part of the "Arab nation" and its state religion as Islam. 
It abolished parliamentary institutions, all legislative functions being 
assumed by the RCC, and continued the prohibition against po- 
litical parties, in effect since 1952. The new regime categorically 
rejected communism — in large part because it was atheistic — and 


Libya: A Country Study 

officially espoused an Arab interpretation of socialism that integrated 
Islamic principles with social, economic, and political reform. Libya 
had shifted, virtually overnight, from the camp of conservative Arab 
traditionalist states to that of the radical nationalist states. 

Qadhafi and the Revolutionary Command Council 

Muammar al Qadhafi was born in a beduin tent in the desert 
near Surt in 1942. His family belongs to a small tribe of Arabized 
Berbers, the Qadhafa, who are stockherders with holdings in the 
Hun Oasis. As a boy, Qadhafi attended a Muslim elementary 
school, during which time the major events occurring in the Arab 
world — the Arab defeat in Palestine in 1948 and Nasser's rise to 
power in Egypt in 1952 — profoundly influenced him. He finished 
his secondary school studies under a private tutor in Misratah, pay- 
ing particular attention to the study of history. 

Qadhafi formed the essential elements of his political philosophy 
and his world view as a schoolboy. His education was entirely 
Arabic and strongly Islamic, much of it under Egyptian teachers. 
From this education and his desert background, Qadhafi derived 
his devoutness and his austere, even puritanical, code of personal 
conduct and morals. Essentially an Arab populist, Qadhafi held 
family ties to be important and upheld the beduin code of egalitarian 
simplicity and personal honor, distrusting sophisticated, axiomat- 
ically corrupt, urban politicians. Qadhafi' s ideology, fed by Radio 
Cairo during his formative years, was an ideology of renascent Arab 
nationalism on the Egyptian model, with Nasser as hero and the 
Egyptian revolution as a guide. 

In Libya, as in a number of other Arab countries, admission 
to the military academy and a career as an army officer became 
available to members of the lower economic strata only after in- 
dependence. A military career offered a new opportunity for higher 
education, for upward economic and social mobility, and was for 
many the only available means of political action and rapid change. 
For Qadhafi and many of his fellow officers, who were animated 
by Nasser's brand of Arab nationalism as well as by an intense 
hatred of Israel, a military career was a revolutionary vocation. 

Qadhafi entered the Libyan military academy at Benghazi in 
1961 and, along with most of his colleagues from the RCC, gradu- 
ated in the 1965-66 period. After receiving his commission, he was 
selected for several months of further training at the Royal Mili- 
tary Academy at Sandhurst, England. Qadhafi 's association with 
the Free Officers Movement began during his days as a cadet. The 
frustration and shame felt by Libyan officers who stood by help- 
lessly at the time of Israel's swift and humiliating defeat of Arab 


Historical Setting 

armies on three fronts in 1967 fueled their determination to con- 
tribute to Arab unity by overthrowing the Libyan monarchy. 

At the onset of RCC rule, Qadhafi and his associates insisted 
that their government would not rest on individual leadership, but 
rather on collegial decision making. However, Qadhafi' s ascetic 
but colorful personality, striking appearance, energy, and intense 
ideological style soon created an impression of Qadhafi as dictator 
and the balance of the RCC as little more than his rubber stamp. 
This impression was inaccurate and although some members were 
more pragmatic, less demonstrative, or less ascetic than Qadhafi, 
the RCC showed a high degree of uniformity in political and eco- 
nomic outlook and in dedication. Fellow RCC members were loyal 
to Qadhafi as group leader, observers believed, not because of 
bureaucratic subservience to his dictatorial power, but because they 
were in basic agreement with him and with the revolutionary Arab 
nationalist ideals that he articulated. 

Although the RCC's principle of conducting executive opera- 
tions through a predominantly civilian cabinet of technician- 
administrators remained strong, circumstances and pressures 
brought about modifications. The first major cabinet change 
occurred soon after the first challenge to the regime. In December 
1969, Adam Said Hawwaz, the minister of defense, and Musa 
Ahmad, the minister of interior, were arrested and accused of plan- 
ning a coup. In the new cabinet formed after the crisis, Qadhafi, 
retaining his post as chairman of the RCC, also became prime 
minister and defense minister. Major Abdel Salaam Jallud, gener- 
ally regarded as second only to Qadhafi in the RCC, became deputy 
prime minister and minister of interior. This cabinet totaled thir- 
teen members, of whom fWe were RCC officers. The regime was 
challenged a second time in July 1970 when Abdullah Abid as 
Sanusi, a distant cousin of former King Idris, and members of the 
Sayf an Nasr clan of Fezzan were accused of plotting to seize power 
for themselves. After the plot was foiled, a substantial cabinet change 
occurred, RCC officers for the first time forming a majority among 
new ministers. 

From the start, RCC spokesmen had indicated a serious intent 
to bring the "defunct regime" to account. In 1971 and 1972 more 
than 200 former government officials — including 7 prime ministers 
and numerous cabinet ministers — as well as former King Idris and 
members of the royal family, were brought to trial on charges of 
treason and corruption. Many, who like Idris lived in exile, were 
tried in absentia. Although a large percentage of those charged were 
acquitted, sentences of up to fifteen years in prison and heavy fines 
were imposed on others. Five death sentences, all but one of them 


Libya: A Country Study 

in absentia, were pronounced, among them, one against Idris. 
Fatima, the former queen, and Hasan ar Rida were sentenced to 
five and three years in prison, respectively. 

Meanwhile, Qadhafi and the RCC had disbanded the Sanusi 
order and officially downgraded its historical role in achieving 
Libya's independence. They attacked regional and tribal differ- 
ences as obstructions in the path of social advancement and Arab 
unity, dismissing traditional leaders and drawing administrative 
boundaries across tribal groupings. A broad-based political party, 
the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), was created in 1971 and modeled 
after Egypt's Arab Socialist Union. Its intent was to raise the 
political consciousness of Libyans and to aid the RCC in formulat- 
ing public policy through debate in open forums. All other politi- 
cal parties were proscribed. Trade unions were incorporated into 
the ASU and strikes forbidden. The press, already subject to cen- 
sorship, was officially conscripted in 1972 as an agent of the Revo- 
lution. Italians and what remained of the Jewish community were 
expelled from the country and their property confiscated. 

After the September coup, United States forces proceeded deliber- 
ately with the planned withdrawal from Wheelus Air Base under 
the agreement made with the previous regime. The last of the 
American contingent turned the facility over to the Libyans on June 
11, 1970, a date thereafter celebrated in Libya as a national holi- 
day. As relations with the United States steadily deteriorated, 
Qadhafi forged close links with the Soviet Union and other East 
European countries, all the while maintaining Libya's stance as 
a nonaligned country and opposing the spread of communism in 
the Arab world. Libya's army — sharply increased from the 6,000- 
man pre-Revolutionary force that had been trained and equipped 
by the British — was armed with Soviet-built armor and missiles 
(see Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 5). 

As months passed, Qadhafi, caught up in his apocalyptic visions 
of revolutionary pan-Arabism and Islam locked in mortal struggle 
with what he termed the encircling, demonic forces of reaction, 
imperialism, and Zionism, increasingly devoted attention to inter- 
national rather than internal affairs. As a result, routine adminis- 
trative tasks fell to Major Jallud, who in 1972 became prime minister 
in place of Qadhafi. Two years later Jallud assumed Qadhafi 's 
remaining administrative and protocol duties to allow Qadhafi to 
devote his time to revolutionary theorizing. Qadhafi remained com- 
mander in chief of the armed forces and effective head of state. 
The foreign press speculated about an eclipse of his authority and 
personality within the RCC, but Qadhafi soon dispelled such the- 
ories by his measures to restructure Libyan society. 


Historical Setting 

The Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 

The remaking of Libyan society that Qadhafi envisioned and 
to which he devoted his energies after the early 1970s formally began 
in 1973 with a so-called Cultural or Popular Revolution. The revo- 
lution was designed to combat bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of 
public interest and participation in the subnational governmental 
system, and problems of national political coordination. In an 
attempt to instill revolutionary fervor into his compatriots and to 
involve large numbers of them in political affairs, Qadhafi urged 
them to challenge traditional authority and to take over and run 
government organs themselves. The instrument for doing this was 
the "people's committee." Within a few months, such commit- 
tees were found all across Libya. They were functionally and geo- 
graphically based and eventually became responsible for local and 
regional administration. 

People's committees were established in such widely divergent 
organizations as universities, private business firms, government 
bureaucracies, and the broadcast media. Geographically based com- 
mittees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone 
(lowest) levels. Seats on the people's committees at the zone level 
were filled by direct popular election; members so elected could 
then be selected for service at higher levels. By mid- 1973 estimates 
of the number of people's committees ranged above 2,000. 

In the scope of their administrative and regulatory tasks and the 
method of their members' selection, the people's committees em- 
bodied the concept of direct democracy that Qadhafi propounded 
in the first volume of The Green Book, which appeared in 1976. The 
same concept lay behind proposals to create a new political struc- 
ture composed of "people's congresses." The centerpiece of the 
new system was the General People's Congress (GPC — see Glos- 
sary), a national representative body intended to replace the RCC. 

The new political order took shape in March 1977 when the GPC, 
at Qadhafi 's behest, adopted the "Declaration of the Establishment 
of the People's Authority" and proclaimed the Socialist People's 
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The term jamahiriya is difficult to trans- 
late, but American scholar Lisa Anderson has suggested "people- 
dom" or "state of the masses" as a reasonable approximation of 
Qadhafi 's concept that the people should govern themselves free 
of any constraints, especially those of the modern bureaucratic state. 
The GPC also adopted resolutions designating Qadhafi as its general 
secretary and creating the General Secretariat of the GPC , com- 
prising the remaining members of the defunct RCC. It also ap- 
pointed the General People's Committee, which replaced the 


Libya: A Country Study 

Council of Ministers, its members now called secretaries rather than 

All legislative and executive authority was vested in the GPC. 
This body, however, delegated most of its important authority to 
its general secretary and General Secretariat and to the General 
People's Committee. Qadhafi, as general secretary of the GPC, 
remained the primary decision maker, just as he had been when 
chairman of the RCC. In turn, all adults had the right and duty 
to participate in the deliberations of their local Basic People's Con- 
gress (BPC), whose decisions were passed up to the GPC for con- 
sideration and implementation as national policy. The BPCs were 
in theory the repository of ultimate political authority and deci- 
sion making, being the embodiment of what Qadhafi termed direct 
"people's power." The 1977 declaration and its accompanying reso- 
lutions amounted to a fundamental revision of the 1969 constitu- 
tional proclamation, especially with respect to the structure and 
organization of the government at both national and subnational 

Continuing to revamp Libya's political and administrative struc- 
ture, Qadhafi introduced yet another element into the body politic. 
Beginning in 1977, "revolutionary committees" (see Glossary) were 
organized and assigned the task of "absolute revolutionary super- 
vision of people's power"; that is, they were to guide the people's 
committees, raise the general level of political consciousness and 
devotion to revolutionary ideals, and guard against deviation and 
opposition in the BPCs. Filled with politically astute zealots, the 
ubiquitous revolutionary committees in 1979 assumed control of 
BPC elections. Although they were not official government organs, 
the revolutionary committees became another mainstay of the 
domestic political scene. As with the people's committees and other 
administrative innovations since the Revolution, the revolution- 
ary committees fit the pattern of imposing a new element on the 
existing subnational system of government rather than eliminat- 
ing or consolidating already existing structures. By the late 1970s, 
the result was an unnecessarily complex system of overlapping juris- 
dictions in which cooperation and coordination among different 
elements were compromised by ill-defined grants of authority and 

The changes in Libyan leadership since 1976 culminated in 
March 1979, when the GPC declared that the "vesting of power 
in the masses" and the "separation of the state from the revolu- 
tion" were complete. Qadhafi relinquished his duties as general 
secretary of the GPC, being known thereafter as "the leader" or 
"Leader of the Revolution." He remained supreme commander 


Historical Setting 

of the armed forces. His replacement was Abdallah Ubaydi, who 
in effect had been prime minister since 1976. The RCC was for- 
mally dissolved and the government was again reorganized into 
people's committees. A new General People's Committee (cabi- 
net) was selected, each of its "secretaries" becoming head of a 
specialized people's committee; the exceptions were the "secre- 
tariats" of petroleum, foreign affairs, and heavy industry, where 
there were no people's committees. A proposal was also made to 
establish a "people's army" by substituting a national militia, being 
formed in the late 1970s, for the national army. Although the idea 
surfaced again in early 1982, it did not appear to be close to imple- 
mentation (see Conscription and the People's Militia, ch. 5). 

Remaking of the economy was parallel with the attempt to remold 
political and social institutions. Until the late 1970s, Libya's econ- 
omy was mixed, with a large role for private enterprise except in 
the fields of oil production and distribution, banking, and insur- 
ance. But according to volume two of Qadhafi' s The Green Book, which 
appeared in 1978, private retail trade, rent, and wages were forms 
of "exploitation" that should be abolished. Instead, workers' self- 
management committees and profit participation partnerships were 
to function in public and private enterprises. A property law was 
passed that forbade ownership of more than one private dwelling, 
and Libyan workers took control of a large number of companies, 
turning them into state-run enterprises. Retail and wholesale trad- 
ing operations were replaced by state-owned "people's supermar- 
kets," where Libyans in theory could purchase whatever they needed 
at low prices (see Role of the Government, ch. 3). By 1981 the state 
had also restricted access to individual bank accounts to draw upon 
privately held funds for government projects. 

While measures such as these undoubtedly benefited poorer 
Libyans, they created resentment and opposition among the newly 
dispossessed. The latter joined those already alienated, some of 
whom had begun to leave the country. By 1982 perhaps 50,000 
to 100,000 Libyans had gone abroad; because many of the 
emigrants were among the enterprising and better educated 
Libyans, they represented a significant loss of managerial and tech- 
nical expertise. 

Some of the exiles formed active opposition groups. Although 
the groups were generally ineffective, Qadhafi nevertheless in early 
1979 warned opposition leaders to return home immediately or face 
"liquidation." A wave of assassinations of prominent Libyan exiles, 
mostly in Western Europe, followed. Few opponents responded 
to the 1979 call to "repentance" or to a similar one issued in 
October 1982 in which Qadhafi once again threatened liquidation 


Libya: A Country Study 

of the recalcitrant, the GPC having already declared their personal 
property forfeit. 

Internal opposition came from elements of the middle class who 
opposed Qadhafi's economic reforms and from students and intel- 
lectuals who criticized his ideology. He also incurred the anger of 
the Islamic community for his unorthodox interpretations of the 
doctrine and traditions of Islam, his challenge to the authority of 
the religious establishment, and his contention that the ideas in 
The Green Book were compatible with and based upon Islam. 
Endowed Islamic properties (habus — see Glossary) were national- 
ized as part of Qadhafi's economic reforms, and he urged "the 
masses" to take over mosques. 

The most serious challenges came from the armed forces, espe- 
cially the officers' corps, and from the RCC. Perhaps the most 
important one occurred in 1975 when Minister of Planning and 
RCC member Major Umar Mihayshi and about thirty army 
officers attempted a coup after disagreements over politico-economic 
policies. The failure of the coup led to the flight of Mihayshi and 
part of the country's technocratic elite. In a move that signaled 
a new intolerance of dissent, the regime executed twenty-two of 
the accused army officers in 1977, the first such punishment in more 
than twenty years. Further executions of dissident army officers 
were reported in 1979, and in August 1980 several hundred peo- 
ple were allegedly killed in the wake of an unsuccessful army revolt 
centered in Tobruk. 

Petroleum Politics 

The economic base for Libya's Revolution has been its oil 
revenues. However, Libya's petroleum reserves were small com- 
pared with those of other major Arab petroleum-producing states. 
As a consequence, Libya was more ready to ration output in order 
to conserve its natural wealth and less responsive to moderating 
its price-rise demands than the other countries. Petroleum was seen 
both as a means of financing the economic and social development 
of a woefully underdeveloped country and as a political weapon 
to brandish in the Arab struggle against Israel. 

The increase in production that followed the 1969 Revolution 
was accompanied by Libyan demands for higher petroleum prices, 
a greater share of revenues, and more control over the develop- 
ment of the country's petroleum industry (see Hydrocarbons and 
Mining, ch. 3). Foreign petroleum companies agreed to a price 
hike of more than three times the going rate (from US$0.90 to 
US$3.45 per barrel) early in 1971 . In December the Libyan govern- 
ment suddenly nationalized the holdings of British Petroleum in 


Historical Setting 

Libya and withdrew funds amounting to approximately US$550 
million invested in British banks as a result of a foreign policy dis- 
pute. British Petroleum rejected as inadequate a Libyan offer of 
compensation, and the British treasury banned Libya from par- 
ticipation in the sterling area. In 1973 the Libyan government an- 
nounced the nationalization of a controlling interest in all other 
petroleum companies operating in the country. This step gave Libya 
control of about 60 percent of its domestic oil production by early 
1974, a figure that subsequently rose to 70 percent. Total nation- 
alization was out of the question, given the need for foreign exper- 
tise and funds in oil exploration, production, and distribution. 

Insisting on the continued use of petroleum as leverage against 
Israel and its supporters in the West, Libya strongly supported for- 
mation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries 
(OPEC) in 1973, and Libyan militancy was partially responsible 
for OPEC measures to raise oil prices, impose embargoes, and gain 
control of production. As a consequence of such policies, Libya's 
oil production declined by half between 1970 and 1974, while 
revenues from oil exports more than quadrupled. Production con- 
tinued to fall, bottoming out at an eleven-year low in 1975 at a 
time when the government was preparing to invest large amounts 
of petroleum revenues in other sectors of the economy. Thereafter, 
output stabilized at about 2 million barrels per day. Production 
and hence income declined yet again in the early 1980s because 
of the high price of Libyan crude and because recession in the indus- 
trialized world reduced demand for oil from all sources. 

Libya's Five-Year Economic and Social Transformation Plan 
(1976-80), announced in 1975, was programmed to pump US$20 
billion into the development of a broad range of economic activi- 
ties that would continue to provide income after Libya's petroleum 
reserves had been exhausted. Agriculture was slated to receive the 
largest share of aid in an effort to make Libya self-sufficient in food 
and to help keep the rural population on the land (see Agriculture, 
ch. 3). Industry, of which there was little before the Revolution, 
also received a significant amount of funding in the first develop- 
ment plan as well as in the second, launched in 1981 (see Indus- 
try, ch. 3). 

Libya continued to be plagued with a shortage of skilled labor, 
which had to be imported along with a broad range of consumer 
goods, both paid for with petroleum income. This same oil revenue, 
however, made possible a substantial improvement in the lives of 
virtually all Libyans. During the 1970s, the government succeeded 
in making major improvements in the general welfare of its citizens. 
By the 1980s Libyans enjoyed much improved housing and 


Libya: A Country Study 

education, comprehensive social welfare services, and general stan- 
dards of health that were among the highest in Africa (see Educa- 
tion; Health and Welfare, ch. 2). 

Libya and Arab Unity 

Qadhafi became the foremost exponent of Arab unity in the 
1970s. Although all Arab governments endorsed the idea in prin- 
ciple, most observed that conditions were not right for putting it 
into practice or that unity would come only at the end of a long 
process of historical evolution. But Qadhafi rejected these views. 
As he conceived it, Arab unity was not an ideal but a realistic goal. 
He agreed that achieving Arab unity was a process that required 
sequential and intermediate stages of development, but the challenge 
he posed to other Arab leaders was that the process had to begin 
somewhere. Qadhafi expressed his determination to make a con- 
tribution to the process and offered Libya as the leavening agent 
(see Arab Relations, ch. 4). 

Throughout 1970 Qadhafi consulted with Egyptian and Sudanese 
leaders about how to achieve some form of union. Nasser died in 
September 1970, but Egyptian participation in the unity talks con- 
tinued under his successor, President Anwar as Sadat. It was the 
young Qadhafi, however, who moved to assume Nasser's mantle 
as the ideological leader of Arab nationalism. 

At the request of Syria's new head of state, Lieutenant General 
Hafiz al Assad, the unity talks were expanded to include Syria. 
After further meetings, Qadhafi, Sadat, and Assad simultaneous- 
ly announced in April 1971 the formation of a federation of Libya, 
Egypt, and Syria. The three heads of state signed a draft constitu- 
tion in August that was overwhelmingly approved in referenda in 
all three countries. Sadat was named the first president of a coun- 
cil of heads of state that was to be the governing body for the Fed- 
eration of Arab Republics (FAR), which came into existence on 
paper on January 1 , 1972. Broad plans were drawn up to provide 
for a full-fledged merger affecting the legal systems, laws, employ- 
ment, armed forces, and foreign policies of all three countries. 
Agreement on specific measures, however, eluded the FAR lead- 
ers, and the federation never progressed beyond making symbolic 
gestures of unity, such as the adoption of a common flag. 

For Qadhafi, the FAR was a step on the road to achieving his 
ultimate goal: the comprehensive union of the "Arab Nation." 
Although he remained the federation's most ardent backer, Qa- 
dhafi was never satisfied with the approach taken by his Egyptian 
and Syrian partners toward what he termed the "battle plan" for 
confrontation with Israel. Nonetheless, he initiated talks with Sadat 


Historical Setting 

on full political union between Egypt and Libya, which would merge 
the neighboring countries into a single state within the framework 
of the FAR. 

At first glance, the proposed merger seemed like the mating of 
a whale with a minnow. Egypt's population was 34 million, Libya's 
under 2 million. But Libya's annual per capita income was four- 
teen times that of Egypt. Its fiscal reserves in 1972 were estimated 
at more than the equivalent of US$2.5 billion — at least ten times 
the amount held by Egypt. 

Sadat pledged support for the project at the conclusion of a con- 
ference with Qadhafi in August 1972. Soon, however, real obsta- 
cles to the merger arose, including the serious personal disagreement 
that developed between the two leaders over a timetable for the 
union. Qadhafi called for immediate unification, the framing of 
a constitution to follow; Sadat insisted on step-by-step integration 
and thorough preparation of the instruments of union. During 1973 
Qadhafi went so far as to offer to resign as Libyan head of state 
if his departure would placate Sadat, whose enthusiasm for the 
merger had waned conspicuously. Qadhafi also organized a "holy 
march" on Cairo by an estimated 30,000 Libyans to demonstrate 
Libyan support for the merger, but to no avail. The September 
1, 1973, date that Sadat had set for final action to be taken on the 
merger passed without notice in Cairo, hardly a surprising develop- 
ment because many Egyptians as well as Libyans had come to 
oppose the project. Opposition stemmed from the historical 
antipathy between Egyptians and Libyans and such factors as the 
incompatibility of the two political systems, with Egypt being con- 
siderably more democratic than Libya as well as more secular in 

Qadhafi envisioned the combination of Libya's wealth and 
Egypt's manpower and military capacity as the key element for 
the success of the Arab struggle against Israel. For example, to fur- 
ther this success, Libyan aircraft were secretly transferred to the 
Egyptian air force and subsequently saw action in the October 1973 
War. It was that war with Israel, however, that proved to be the 
watershed in relations between the two Arab states. The joint 
Egyptian- Syrian operation came as a surprise to Qadhafi, who had 
been excluded from its planning by Sadat and Assad. The Libyan 
leader castigated his erstwhile FAR partners for wasting resources 
in fighting a war for limited objectives, and he was appalled by 
Sadat's agreement to a cease-fire after the successful Israeli coun- 
teroffensive. He accused the Egyptian leader of cowardice and of 
purposely sabotaging the federation. In response, Sadat revealed 
that he had intervened in 1973 to prevent a planned Libyan 


Libya: A Country Study 

submarine attack on the S.S. Queen Elizabeth II while the British 
liner was carrying a Jewish tourist group in the Mediterranean. 
Thereafter, relations between the two leaders degenerated into a 
series of charges and countercharges that effectively ended any talk 
of merger. 

In the mid-1970s, Qadhafi undertook a major armaments pro- 
gram paid for by the higher post-1973 oil revenues. He wished to 
play a major role in Middle East affairs based on military strength 
and increasing uneasiness with Sadat's policies. To acquire sophisti- 
cated weapons, Qadhafi turned to the Soviet Union, with which 
his relations grew closer as Sadat leaned more and more toward 
a peaceful solution of the Arab-Israeli problem. Mutual suspicion 
between Sadat and Qadhafi, plus Egyptian charges of Libyan sub- 
version, led to a brief but sharp shooting war along their common 
frontier in July 1977. Egyptian forces advanced a short distance 
into Libya before Algerian mediation ended the fighting. The con- 
flict occasioned the departure from Libya of thousands of Egyp- 
tians employed in the petroleum industry, agriculture, commerce, 
education, and the bureaucracy, causing disruption of Libyan eco- 
nomic activities and public services. 

The major break between Egypt and Libya came over Sadat's 
journey to Jerusalem the following November and the conclusion 
of a separate peace with Israel in September 1978. Not only were 
diplomatic relations between Egypt and Libya broken, but Libya 
played a leading role in organizing the Steadfastness and Confron- 
tation Front in December 1977. The front's members were Libya, 
Syria, Algeria, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South 
Yemen), and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), all of 
whom bitterly opposed Sadat's peace initiatives. Qadhafi favored 
the isolation of Egypt as punishment, because he adamantly re- 
jected a peaceful solution with Israel. He subsequently toned down 
his more extreme rhetoric in the interest of forging unity among 
Arab states in opposing the policies of President Sadat and his suc- 
cessor, Husni Mubarak. 

Qadhafi 's quest for unity on his western border was similarly 
fruitless. A proposed union with Tunisia in 1974 was immediately 
repudiated by Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia's president. This inci- 
dent, together with Tunisian accusations of Libyan subversion and 
a quarrel over demarcation of the continental shelf with its oil fields, 
thoroughly soured relations. Then in early 1980 a group of dis- 
gruntled Tunisians staged an abortive revolt at Gafsa in central 
Tunisia, disguised as a cross-border attack from Algeria. Bourguiba 
accused Qadhafi of engineering the incident and suspended diplo- 
matic relations with Tripoli. Qadhafi denied involvement, but re- 
lations between Tripoli and Tunis remained at low ebb. 


Historical Setting 

Having failed to achieve union with Egypt and Tunisia, Qadhafi 
turned once again to Syria. In September 1980, Assad agreed to 
yet another merger with Libya. This attempt at a unified state came 
at a time when both countries were diplomatically isolated. As part 
of the agreement, Libya undertook to pay a debt of US$1 billion 
that Syria owed the Soviet Union for weapons. 

Ironically, this successful union with Syria confounded Qadhafi 's 
pan- Arab ambitions. When war broke out between Iran and Iraq 
in September 1980, Libya and Syria were the only Arab states to 
give unqualified support to non-Arab Iran. At the same time, the 
war brought a break in Libya's relations with Iraq and Saudi 
Arabia. Yet another obstacle arose in December 1981 when Qadhafi 
had to contend with the first of two airline hijackings carried out 
by Lebanese Shias seeking information about their leader, Imam 
Musa Sadr, who had disappeared while on a visit to Libya in 1978. 
Both hijackings ended without release of or news about Musa Sadr, 
whose disappearance badly tarnished Libya's image among Shias 
in Lebanon, Iran, and elsewhere. 

Libyan Ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa 

Qadhafi' s approach to sub-Saharan Africa revolved around sev- 
eral basic concerns: the attempt to increase Libyan influence in 
Muslim or partly Muslim states, promotion of Islamic unity, and 
support, often uncritical, for African liberation movements. One 
of Qadhafi' s frequently stated goals was the creation of a Saharan 
Islamic state, but critics accused him of being more interested in 
empire than in fostering and promoting Islam. The aforementioned 
objectives governed his relations with African states, and nowhere 
more so than in neighboring Chad and Sudan. 

Libya had been deeply involved in Chad since the early 1970s. 
Reasons for this involvement included tribal and religious affini- 
ties between northern Chad and southern Libya and a contested 
common border dating back to the colonial period. In 1973 Libya 
occupied the Aouzou Strip. The territory, which allegedly contains 
significant deposits of uranium and other minerals, gave the Libyans 
a solid foothold in Chad. From his Aouzou Strip base Qadhafi also 
gave moral and material aid to northern dissidents in the prolonged 
Chadian civil war. In the late 1970s, these dissidents were led by 
Goukouni Oueddei, the leader of the Tebu (see Peoples of Libya, 
ch. 2). 

After failure in the 1970s of mediation efforts in which Libya 
was deeply involved, Qadhafi provided equipment and troops to 
Goukouni that enabled him to capture N'Djamena, Chad's capital, 
in December 1980. In January the two leaders called for a merger 


Libya: A Country Study 

of their countries, but the outcry among a number of West African 
states and from France, the former Chadian colonial power, was 
so great that the proposal was dropped. Even within Goukouni's 
own forces, there was considerable opposition to Libya's presence 
and tactics. Under persistent international pressure, Libya's esti- 
mated 10,000 to 15,000 troops withdrew to the Aouzou Strip in 
November 1981. Opposition forces under Hissein Habre subse- 
quently drove Goukouni back north, leaving Habre in control of 
N'Djamena, from which he pressed unsuccessfully for Libya's with- 
drawal from Aouzou. 

During the 1970s, relations between Libya and Sudan went from 
bad to worse. At the beginning of the decade, Qadhafi aided 
Sudanese President Jaafar an Numayri against leftist plotters. But 
by the mid-1970s, relations had turned hostile after Numayri 
accused Libya of subversion and of responsibility for several coup 
attempts. Thereafter, Sudan belonged to the camp of Qadhafi 's 
sworn opponents. In 1980 Numayri condemned the Libyan inva- 
sion of Chad, being especially fearful of Libyan meddling in Sudan's 
troubled border province of Darfur. In early 1981 , Numayri called 
for Libya's expulsion from the Arab League and for a joint effort 
to overthrow or kill Qadhafi. A few months later, he ordered Libyan 
diplomats to leave Khartoum in the wake of a bombing of the 
Chadian embassy linked to Libyan instigation. 

Libyan intervention in Uganda in the 1970s constituted a spe- 
cial case. There Qadhafi was interested less in unity than in bol- 
stering a friendly Islamic regime against both internal and external 
opposition. Beginning in 1972, Qadhafi gave financial and mili- 
tary backing to Idi Amin Dada in return for Amin's disavowal of 
Uganda's previously close relationship with Israel. Thereafter, 
Qadhafi continued to back Amin, despite the wide condemnation 
of Amin's brutal rule. In late 1978 and early 1979, when combined 
Tanzanian-Ugandan forces drove Amin from power, Qadhafi un- 
successfully airlifted troops and supplies in Amin's defense, and 
he granted the Ugandan leader temporary asylum in Tripoli. 

Relations with the United States and Western Europe 

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Libya was widely suspected of 
financing international terrorist activities and political subversion 
around the world. Recruits from various national liberation move- 
ments reportedly received training in Libya, and Libyan financ- 
ing of Palestinian activities against Israel was openly acknowledged. 
There were also allegations of Libyan assistance to such diverse 
groups as Lebanese leftists, the Irish Republican Army, Muslim 
rebels in the Philippines, and left-wing extremists in Europe and 


Historical Setting 

Japan. Some observers thought support was more verbal than 
material. However, in 1981 the GPC declared Libyan support of 
national liberation movements a matter of principle, an act that 
lent credence to charges of support for terrorism. 

Support for international terrorism was a major issue in Libya's 
relations with the United States and Western Europe. The United 
States, in particular, viewed Libya's diplomatic and material sup- 
port for what Tripoli called "liberation movements" as aid and 
comfort to international terrorists. In general, after the early 1970s 
relations between the two countries went from bad to worse, even 
while the United States continued to import Libyan crude. 

Qadhafi opposed United States diplomatic initiatives and mili- 
tary presence in the Middle East. As a protest against Washing- 
ton's policies in Iran, the United States embassy in Tripoli was 
stormed and burned in December 1979. In the late 1970s, Washing- 
ton blocked delivery to Libya of equipment judged of potential mili- 
tary value and in May 1981 ordered Libyan diplomatic personnel 
to leave the United States to prevent assassination of anti-Qadhafi 
Libyan dissidents. The most serious incident occurred in August 
1981 when United States jets shot down two Libyan jet fighters 
during naval maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra (see Relations with 
the United States and Western Europe, ch. 4). That same month, 
Libya signed an economic and political agreement with Ethiopia 
and South Yemen, the so-called Tripartite Agreement, aimed at 
countering Western, and primarily American, interests in the 
Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. After a series of joint consulta- 
tions, however, the pact became largely a dead letter. 

Libya's income from oil came from sales to Western Europe as 
well as to the United States, and to ensure a steady supply of oil 
most European nations tried to remain on reasonable terms with 
their Libyan supplier. Some protests arose over the wave of politi- 
cal assassinations of Libyan exiles in Europe in 1980, but only Brit- 
ain with its independent supply of oil took a strong stand on the 
issue. Qadhafi 's call that same year for compensation from Brit- 
ain, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and Italy 
for destruction of Libyan property in World War II brought no 
response, even when the Libyan leader threatened to seize property 
if adequate compensation were not negotiated. 

By the early 1980s, Libya was a country embroiled in con- 
troversy. Libyan ventures in Chad and elsewhere in North Africa 
and the Middle East had earned a good deal of opprobrium for 
Qadhafi, who often pursued his goal of Arab and Islamic unity 
and extended Libyan influence at what seemed any price. Indeed, 
suspicion if not hostility were the usual response to Qadhafi 's in- 
itiatives in the Arab and Western world. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Domestically, the government had attempted to ensure a more 
equitable distribution of wealth, a step that pleased many but by 
no means all of its citizens. A new political system with new insti- 
tutions was also in place with the aim of involving as many citizens 
as possible in governing themselves. But overlapping jurisdictions 
and responsibilities had led to confusion, and there were questions 
as to the viability of the committee system of government. A siza- 
ble number of Libyans seemed uninterested in political participa- 
tion, while others had gone into opposition, active or passive, at 
home and abroad. The country's oil revenues had been channeled 
into agricultural and industrial projects that the regime hoped would 
provide employment and lessen dependence upon imports and for- 
eign labor. Even in these areas, the results were less promising than 
had been expected, and falling oil prices diminished the financial 
resources that could be devoted to continued economic and for- 
eign policy initiatives. 

The decline in oil revenues and consequent economic slowdown, 
the continued reliance upon non-Libyan expertise, and the gener- 
ally unfavorable state of foreign relations and persistent dissidence 
in the military and society at large posed grave problems for the 
Qadhafi regime in the early 1980s. 

* * * 

Two of the best English-language sources on Libya are John 
Wright's Libya, which covers Libyan history prior to the 1969 Revo- 
lution, and his Libya: A Modern History, devoted to the course of 
the Revolution during the 1970s. Jamil M. Abu-Nasr's detailed 
A History of the Maghrib views Libya in the larger context of regional 
history but carries the narrative only up to 1951. The various works 
of the archaeologist Richard G. Goodchild are of primary impor- 
tance for the study of Libya in antiquity. Kathleen Freeman uti- 
lizes both fable and fact in her delightful and informative historical 
essay on Cyrene in Greek City -States. For a treatment of the late 
medieval period, see Robert Brunschvig's La Berberie orientate sous 
les Haj sides. Much material of value for an understanding of the 
early Ottoman period in North Africa is found in Fernand Braudel's 
classic The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip 
II. Seton Dearden's A Nest of Corsairs is the well-documented but 
fast-moving story of the Karamanli dynasty. Few works on modern 
Libya compare in scholarly significance to Edward Evans- 
Pritchard's monograph The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Claudio G. Segre's 
Fourth Shore studies the colonial period from an Italian vantage point 
and submits findings that call for a reassessment of the demographic 


Historical Setting 

colonization of Libya. Several of the essays in E. G. H. Joffe and 
K. S. McLachlan, Social and Economic Development of Libya, cover 
important aspects of Libya in the present century. Lisa Anderson 
examines the mistrust of the modern bureaucratic state that is so 
peculiarly Libyan and that characterizes Qadhafi's political 
philosophy in The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 
1830-1980. Richard B. Parker's North Africa offers an incisive over- 
view of contemporary Libya that emphasizes Qadhafi's role in de- 
termining state policies. (For further information and complete 
citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment 

A young Berber woman 

LIBYAN SOCIETY IN the late 1980s was in a state of transition 
from one set of structures and values to another. For nearly two 
decades the country's leader, Muammar al Qadhafl, had sought 
to transform Libya from an underdeveloped backwater into a 
modern socialist state compatible with the dictates of the Quran 
and the heritage of Islam. The regime's policies and goals often 
aroused controversy as the country moved away from the Libyan- 
Arab mold of the past in which heredity and patronage determined 
social distinction and toward the new egalitarian society that was 
the Qadhafi regime's ideal. 

The changes the society was undergoing were made possible in 
large measure by petroleum wealth, which had converted the coun- 
try from one of the world's poorest at the time of independence 
in 1951 to one of the most prosperous. By the 1980s, most Libyans 
enjoyed educational opportunities, health care, and housing that 
were among the best in Africa and the Middle East. Responsibility 
for the care of the old and the needy had been largely shifted from 
the extended family to a comprehensive system of social security. 
Education and medical care were free, and when necessary the state 
subsidized housing and other necessities. Life expectancy, perhaps 
the ultimate measure of living standards, had lengthened by ten 
years since 1960, and social mobility was much improved. 

In 1984 the population reached 3.6 million and was growing at 
about 4 percent a year, one of the highest rates in the world. Unlike 
its neighbors, the Libyan government welcomed this rate of growth, 
which it hoped would eventually remedy the country's shortage 
of labor. The population was overwhelmingly concentrated along 
the Mediterranean coast, much of it around Benghazi and Tripoli. 
Villagers and rural tribe members continued to migrate to cities 
and towns, seeking better-paying jobs in industry or in the service 
sector of the modern economy. The number of jobs far exceeded 
the number of qualified Libyans; consequently, the population 
included at least 260,000 expatriate workers who were essential for 
the functioning of the economy. 

Roughly one-half of the population was under the age of fifteen. 
The prospects for future employment and a fruitful life were such 
that Libyan youth for the most part were not the discontented lot 
found elsewhere in North Africa. 

The status of women continued to undergo modification at the 
behest of the Revolution's leaders. Especially in urban areas, women 


Libya: A Country Study 

in ever- greater numbers were entering schools and universities and 
finding employment in professions newly opened to them. Although 
tradition remained quite strong, the role of women was in the midst 
of what was for Libya a remarkable transformation. 

In spite of the gains of the Revolution, however, Libyan society 
was deeply divided. Little sense of national unity, identity, or pur- 
pose had developed, and the old ethnic and geographic divisions 
among Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and Tripolitania were still very evident. 
Alienation from the Qadhafi regime and its policies was widespread, 
a sentiment reinforced by shortages of consumer goods and by per- 
sistent exhortations to participate in governing the country. Whole 
segments of the populace were so disaffected that they either did 
not participate or did so only minimally, retreating into apathy 
and private matters. Qadhafi 's campaign to discredit Islamic 
authorities and creeds and to enlist young women in the armed 
forces similarly offended Libyan sensitivities. 

Most foreign observers believed that the regime faced a difficult 
task in convincing the majority of Libyans of the need for further 
social change. In the 1980s, Libyan society remained profoundly 
conservative and resistant to the impulses for change that emanated 
from its leaders. The wisdom of current social policies was being 
questioned, and it was obvious that many Libyans were not enthu- 
siastic about the course of action that the Revolutionary govern- 
ment had laid out. 


With an area of 1,760,000 square kilometers and a Mediterra- 
nean coastline of nearly 1,800 kilometers, Libya is fourth in size 
among the countries of Africa and fifteenth among the countries 
of the world. Although the oil discoveries of the 1960s have brought 
it immense petroleum wealth, at the time of its independence it 
was an extremely poor desert state whose only important physical 
asset appeared to be its strategic location at the midpoint of Africa's 
northern rim. It lay within easy reach of the major European nations 
and linked the Arab countries of North Africa with those of the 
Middle East, facts that throughout history had made its urban 
centers bustling crossroads rather than isolated backwaters without 
external social influences. Consequently, an immense social gap 
developed between the cities, cosmopolitan and peopled largely by 
foreigners, and the desert hinterland, where tribal chieftains ruled 
in isolation and where social change was minimal. 


The Society and Its Environment 

The Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert are the coun- 
try's most prominent natural features (see fig. 4). There are several 
highlands but no true mountain ranges except in the largely empty 
southern desert near the Chadian border, where the Tibesti Massif 
rises to over 2,200 meters. A relatively narrow coastal strip and 
highland steppes immediately south of it are the most productive 
agricultural regions. Still farther south, a pastoral zone of sparse 
grassland gives way to the vast Sahara Desert, a barren wasteland 
of rocky plateaus and sand. It supports minimal human habita- 
tion, and agriculture is possible only in a few scattered oases. 

Between the productive lowland agricultural zones lies the Gulf 
of Sidra, where along the coast a stretch of 500 kilometers of 
wasteland desert extends northward to the sea. This barren zone, 
known as the Sirtica, has great historical significance. To its west, 
the area known as Tripolitania has characteristics and a history 
similar to those of nearby Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It is con- 
sidered with these states to constitute a supranational region called 
the Maghrib (see Glossary). To the east, the area known histori- 
cally as Cyrenaica has been closely associated with the Arab states 
of the Middle East. In this sense, the Sirtica marks the dividing 
point between the Maghrib and the Mashriq (see Glossary). 

Along the shore of Tripolitania for more than 300 kilometers, 
coastal oases alternate with sandy areas and lagoons. Inland from 
these lies the Jifarah Plain, a triangular area of some 15,000 square 
kilometers. About 120 kilometers inland the plain terminates in 
an escarpment that rises to form the Jabal (mountain) Nafusah, 
a plateau with elevations of up to 1,000 meters. 

In Cyrenaica there are fewer coastal oases, and the Marj Plain — 
the lowland area corresponding to the Jifarah Plain of Tripolitania — 
covers a much smaller area. The lowlands form a crescent about 
210 kilometers long between Benghazi and Darnah and extend 
inland a maximum of 50 kilometers. Elsewhere along the Cyrenai- 
can coast, the precipice of an arid plateau reaches to the sea. Behind 
the Marj Plain, the terrain rises abruptly to form Jabal al Akhdar 
(Green Mountain), so called because of its leafy cover of pine, 
juniper, cypress, and wild olive. It is a limestone plateau with maxi- 
mum altitudes of about 900 meters. From Jabal al Akhdar, 
Cyrenaica extends southward across a barren grazing belt that gives 
way to the Sahara Desert, which extends still farther southwest 
across the Chad frontier. Unlike Cyrenaica, Tripolitania does not 
extend southward into the desert. The southwestern desert, known 
as Fezzan, was administered separately during both the Italian 
regime and the federal period of the Libyan monarchy. In 1969 
the Revolutionary government officially changed the regional 


Libya: A Country Study 





International boundary 

|r \c* : r a :cpita 

5C OC '50 200 Kilometers 

200 Miles 

Figure 4. Physical Features 


The Society and Its Environment 




Gu/f of S/dro 



pjH [Gulf of Bumbah 




ub ( 



Sand Sea 




Al Kufrah 










Boundary representation 
not necessarily authoritative 


Libya: A Country Study 

designation of Tripolitania to Western Libya, of Cyrenaica to 
Eastern Libya, and of Fezzan to Southern Libya; however, the old 
names were intimately associated with the history of the area, and 
during the 1970s they continued to be used frequently. Cyrenaica 
comprises 51 percent, Fezzan 33 percent, and Tripolitania 16 per- 
cent of the country's area. 

Before Libya achieved independence, its name was seldom used 
other than as a somewhat imprecise geographical expression. The 
people preferred to be referred to as natives of one of the three con- 
stituent regions. The separateness of the regions is much more than 
simply geographical and political, for they have evolved largely as 
different socioeconomic entities — each with a culture, social struc- 
ture, and values different from the others. Cyrenaica became 
Arabized at a somewhat earlier date than Tripolitania, and beduin 
tribes dominated it. The residual strain of the indigenous Berber 
inhabitants, however, still remains in Tripolitania. Fezzan has 
remained a kind of North African outback, its oases peopled largely 
by minority ethnic groups. 

The border between Tripolitania and Tunisia is subject to count- 
less crossings by legal and illegal migrants. No natural frontier 
marks the border, and the ethnic composition, language, value sys- 
tems, and traditions of the two peoples are nearly identical. The 
Cyrenaica region is contiguous with Egypt, and here, too, the 
border is not naturally defined; illegal as well as legal crossings are 
frequent. In contrast, Fezzan 's borders with Algeria, Niger, and 
Chad are seldom crossed because of the almost total emptiness of 
the desert countryside. 

Other factors, too, such as the traditional forms of land tenure, 
have varied in the different regions. In the 1980s their degree of 
separateness was still sufficiently pronounced to represent a sig- 
nificant obstacle to efforts toward achieving a fully unified Libya. 

Climate and Hydrology 

Within Libya as many as five different climatic zones have been 
recognized, but the dominant climatic influences are Mediterra- 
nean and Saharan. In most of the coastal lowland, the climate is 
Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall 
is scanty, and the dry climate results in a year-round 98-percent 
visibility. The weather is cooler in the highlands, and frosts occur 
at maximum elevations. In the desert interior the climate has very 
hot summers and extreme diurnal temperature ranges. 

Less than 2 percent of the national territory receives enough rain- 
fall for settled agriculture, the heaviest precipitation occurring in 
the Jabal al Akhdar zone of Cyrenaica, where annual rainfall of 


The Society and Its Environment 

400 to 600 millimeters is recorded. All other areas of the country 
receive less than 400 millimeters, and in the Sahara 50 millimeters 
or less occurs. Rainfall is often erratic, and a pronounced drought 
may extend over two seasons. For example, epic floods in 1945 
left Tripoli under water for several days, but two years later an 
unprecedentedly severe drought caused the loss of thousands of head 
of cattle. 

Deficiency in rainfall is reflected in an absence of permanent 
rivers or streams, and the approximately twenty perennial lakes 
are brackish or salty. In the 1980s, these circumstances severely 
limited the country's agricultural potential as a basis for the sound 
and varied economy Qadhafi sought to establish. The allocation 
of limited water is considered of sufficient importance to warrant 
the existence of the Secretariat of Dams and Water Resources, and 
damaging a source of water can be penalized by a heavy fine or 

The government has constructed a network of dams in wadis, 
dry watercourses that become torrents after heavy rains. These dams 
are used both as water reservoirs and for flood and erosion con- 
trol. The wadis are heavily settled because soil in their bottoms 
is often suitable for agriculture, and the high water table in their 
vicinity makes them logical locations for digging wells. In many 
wadis, however, the water table is declining at an alarming rate, 
particularly in areas of intensive agriculture and near urban centers. 
The government has expressed concern over this problem and 
because of it has diverted water development projects, particularly 
around Tripoli, to localities where the demand on underground 
water resources is less intense. It has also undertaken extensive 
reforestation projects (see Fishing and Forestry, ch. 3). 

There are also numerous springs, those best suited for future 
development occurring along the scarp faces of the Jabal Nafusah 
and the Jabal al Akhdar. The most talked-about of the water 
resources, however, are the great subterranean aquifers of the 
desert. The best known of these lies beneath Al Kufrah Oasis in 
southeastern Cyrenaica, but an aquifer with even greater reputed 
capacity is located near the oasis community of Sabha in the south- 
western desert. In the late 1970s, wells were drilled at Al Kufrah 
and at Sabha as part of a major agricultural development effort. 
An even larger undertaking is the so-called Great Man-Made River, 
initiated in 1984 (see Land Use and Irrigation, ch. 3). It is intended 
to tap the tremendous aquifers of the Al Kufrah, Sarir, and Sabha 
oases and to carry the resulting water to the Mediterranean coast 
for use in irrigation and industrial projects. 


Libya: A Country Study 


As of 1987, the most recent census was that taken in July 1984, 
but the only available data showed a provisional population figure 
of 3.637 million inhabitants — one of the smallest totals on the Afri- 
can continent. Of these, an estimated 1.950 million were men, and 
1.687 million women. Having slightly more men than women in 
the population was characteristic of developing countries such as 
Libya where health practices and sanitation were fast improving 
but where female mortality relating to childbirth and favoritism 
toward male over female children caused a slight skewing of the 
population profile. In addition, underreporting of females is fairly 
common in many Muslim societies. 

The 1984 population total was an increase from the 2.29 mil- 
lion reported in 1973 and 1.54 million in 1964. Included in the 
census were at least 260,000 expatriate workers, but the total num- 
ber of foreigners in Libya in 1984 was unavailable. This uncer- 
tainty was in keeping with a general lack of reliable, current, social 
statistics for Libya in the 1980s, in marked contrast with the situa- 
tion a decade earlier. 

The population was exceptionally young and was growing at a 
rapid pace. Estimates placed those under the age of fifteen at up 
to half the total population. Based on results of the 1984 census, 
the United Nations (UN) placed the annual rate of increase for 
the 1980-84 period at an extremely high 4.5 percent, but the Cen- 
tral Bank of Libya placed the figure at 3.9 percent annually for 
nationals only. Official sources put the average annual growth rate 
for the 1970-86 period at 4 percent, a figure that agreed with World 
Bank (see Glossary) data; the bank projected that this rate would 
prevail until the year 2000, when Libya's population would total 
6 million. 

This high rate of population increase reflected an official policy 
of fostering rapid growth to meet labor needs and to fuel economic 
development. It was also well above comparable rates in other 
Maghribi states, which had instituted family planning programs 
to contain their burgeoning numbers. Libya had no such national 
program. On the contrary, the government offered incentives to 
encourage births and had improved health facilities to ensure infant 
survivability. Libyan population policy thus emphasized growth 
over restraint, large families over small ones, and an ever-expanding 
population — luxuries Libya felt it could afford, given the vastness 
of its wealth in petroleum and area. 

According to UN estimates for the years 1980-85, life expec- 
tancy was fifty-six years for men and fifty-nine years for women, 
a gain of more than ten years for each sex since 1960. The crude 


The Society and Its Environment 

birth rate was 46 per 1,000, down 7 percent since 1965, while the 
crude death rate was 11 per 1,000, a decline of 40 percent over 
20 years. The infant mortality rate had similarly declined from 140 
deaths per 1,000 in 1965 to 92 in 1985, still high by Western stan- 
dards but not by those of North Africa. 

The population was by no means distributed evenly across the 
country. About 65 percent resided in Tripolitania, 30 percent in 
Cyrenaica, and 5 percent in Fezzan, a breakdown that had not 
changed appreciably for at least 30 years. Within the two north- 
ern geographic regions, the population was overwhelmingly con- 
centrated along the Mediterranean littoral. Along the coast, the 
density was estimated at more than fifty inhabitants per square 
kilometer, whereas it fell to less than one per square kilometer in 
the interior. The average for the country as a whole was usually 
placed at two. 

In the 1980s, Libya was still predominantly a rural country, even 
though a large percentage of its people were concentrated in the 
cities and nearby intensively cultivated agricultural zones of the 
coastal plains. Under the impact of heavy and sustained country - 
to-town migration, the urban sector continued to grow rapidly, aver- 
aging 8 percent annually in the early 1980s. Reliable assessments 
held the country to be about 40 percent urban as compared with 
a 1964 figure of 27 percent. Some sources, such as the World Bank, 
placed the rate of urbanization at more than 60 percent, but this 
figure was probably based on 1973 census data that reflected a rad- 
ical change in the definition of urban population rather than an 
unprecedented surge of rural inhabitants into cities and towns. In 
spite of sizable internal migration into urban centers, particularly 
Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya remained less urbanized than almost 
any other Arab country. The government was concerned about 
this continual drain from the countryside. Since the late 1970s, it 
had sponsored a number of farming schemes in the desert, designed 
in part to encourage rural families to remain on the land rather 
than to migrate to more densely populated areas. 

In the early 1980s, the urban concentrations of Tripoli and Ben- 
ghazi dominated the country. These two cities and the neighbor- 
ing coastal regions contained more than 90 percent of Libya's 
population and nearly all of its urban centers, but they occupied 
less than 10 percent of the land area. Several factors accounted for 
their dominance, such as higher rates of fertility, declining death 
rates because of improved health and sanitation measures, and long- 
term internal migration. 

As the capital of the country, Tripoli was the larger and more 
important of the two cities. Greater Tripoli was composed of six 


Libya: A Country Study 

municipalities that stretched nearly 100 kilometers along the coast 
and about 50 inland. At the heart of this urban complex was the 
city of Tripoli, the 1984 population of which was 990,000 and which 
contained several distinct zones. The medina was the oldest quarter, 
many of its buildings dating to the Ottoman era (see Ottoman 
Regency, ch. 1). Here a traditionally structured Islamic society 
composed of artisans, religious scholars and leaders, shopkeepers, 
and merchants had survived into the mid-twentieth century. The 
manufacture of traditional handicrafts, such as carpets, leather 
goods, copper ware, and pottery, was centered in the medina. 

The Italian city, constructed between 1911 and 1951 beyond the 
medina, was designed for commercial and administrative purposes. 
It featured wide avenues, piazzas, multistoried buildings, parks, 
and residential areas where Italian colonials once lived. The Libyan- 
built modern sector reflected the needs of government, the impact 
of large-scale internal migration, new industrialization, and oil 
income. Independence brought rapid rural-to-urban migration as 
a result of employment opportunities in construction, transporta- 
tion, and municipal services, especially after the discovery of oil. 
This period also brought new government facilities, apartment 
buildings, and the first public housing projects as well as such 
industries as food-processing, textiles, and oil refining. 

Metropolitan Tripoli sprawled in an arc around the harbor and 
medina. In addition to its political, commercial, and residential struc- 
tures and functions, the city was a seat of learning and scholarship 
centered in religious seminaries, technical colleges, and a univer- 
sity (see Education, this ch.). Planners hoped to channel future 
growth east and west along the coast and to promote expansion 
of surrounding towns in an effort to reduce urban density and to 
preserve contiguous agricultural zones. They also envisaged revitali- 
zation of the medina as they strove to preserve the city's architec- 
tural and cultural heritage in the midst of twentieth-century 

As a consequence of its small population and work force, Libya 
has had to import a large number of foreign workers. Expatriate 
workers, most of them from nearby Arab countries, flowed into 
Libya after the discovery of oil. There were about 17,000 of them 
in 1964, but the total had risen to 64,000 by 1971 and to 223,000 
in 1975, when foreign workers made up almost 33 percent of the 
labor force. The official number of foreign workers in Libya in 1980 
was 280,000, but private researchers argued persuasively that the 
true number was more than 500,000 because of underreporting 
and illegal entry. 


The Society and Its Environment 

The most acute demand was for managerial and professional per- 
sonnel. A large percentage of the expatriates were unskilled laborers, 
who were widely distributed throughout the economy. On paper, 
there was ample legislation to ensure that foreigners were given 
employment only where qualified Libyans could not be found. But 
the demand for labor of all kinds was such that the availability of 
aliens made it possible for Libyans to select the choice positions 
for themselves and leave the less desirable ones to foreigners. 

In 1980 nonnationals were found mainly in construction work, 
where they numbered almost 130,000 or 46 percent of those 
employed in that industry, according to official statistics. Their 
numbers in such work were expected to decline after the mid-1980s, 
at the same time that ever-larger numbers of foreigners were 
expected to fill jobs in manufacturing, where they constituted more 
than 8 percent of the 1980 labor force. Significant numbers of 
expatriates were found in agriculture (8 percent) and education (10 
percent) as well. Few were employed in the petroleum sector, 
however, only 3,000 or 1 percent of all foreign workers in 1980. 

In 1983 there were more than 560,000 foreigners resident in 
Libya, about 18 percent of the total population, according to the 
Secretariat of Planning. By far the most numerous were Egyptians 
(174,000) and Tunisians (73,600); the largest Western groups were 
Italians (14,900) and British (10,700). During 1984, however, a 
large portion of the foreign work force departed as a result of restric- 
tions on repatriation of earnings. In 1985, for reasons that appeared 
more political than economic, Libya expelled tens of thousands of 
workers, including 20,000 Egyptians, 32,000 Tunisians, and several 
thousand from Mali and Niger. This exodus continued the following 
year when some 25,000 Moroccans were forced to depart. 

The number of resident foreigners thus declined drastically in 
the mid-1980s. The exact dimensions of the decline as well as its 
impact upon the country, however, remained unclear. Minimum 
estimates of the number of nonnationals still in Libya in 1987 ranged 
upward of 200,000, a reasonable figure given Libya's dependence 
upon imported labor for essential skills and services. 

Ethnic Groups and Languages 

Peoples of Libya 

The present population of Libya is composed of several distinct 
groups. By far the majority identify themselves as Arabs. Arab 
invaders brought Arabic language and culture to Libya between 
the seventh to the eleventh centuries, but intermarriage with Berbers 
and other indigenous peoples over the centuries has produced so 


Libya: A Country Study 

mixed a strain that few Libyans can substantiate claims to pure 
or even predominantly Arab ancestry. These Arabic- speaking Mus- 
lims of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry make up 90 percent of 
the country's population. Berbers, other indigenous minority peo- 
ples, and black Africans make up most of the remainder, although 
small scattered groups of Greeks, Muslim Cretans, Maltese, and 
Armenians make up long-established communities in urban areas. 


The successive waves of Arabs who arrived beginning in the 
seventh century imposed Islam and the Arabic language along with 
their political domination. Conversion to Islam was largely com- 
plete by 1300, but Arabic replaced the indigenous Berber dialects 
more slowly. Initially, many Berbers fled into the desert, resisting 
Islam and viewing it as a urban religion. In the eleventh century, 
however, tribes of the beduin Bani (see Glossary) Hilal and Bani 
Salim invaded first Cyrenaica and later Tripolitania and were gener- 
ally effective in imposing their Islamic faith and nomadic way of 
life. This beduin influx disrupted existing settlements and living 
patterns; in many areas tribal life and organization were introduced 
or strengthened. A further influx of Arabic- speaking peoples 
occurred in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries as a result 
of the upheavals accompanying the fall to the Christians of the last 
Muslim kingdom in Spain. 

It is estimated that the total number of Arabs who arrived in North 
Africa during the first two migrations did not exceed 700,000 and 
that in the twelfth-century population of 6 or 7 million they con- 
stituted less than 10 percent of the total. Arab blood later received 
some reinforcement from Spain, but throughout North Africa Berber 
background heavily outweighed Arab origin. Arabization of the 
Berbers advanced more rapidly and completely in Libya than else- 
where in the Maghrib and by the mid-twentieth century relatively 
few Berber speakers remained. By contrast, in Morocco and Algeria, 
and to a lesser extent in Tunisia, Berbers who had yet to become 
Arabized continued to form substantial ethnic minorities. 

In the countryside traditional Arab life, including customary 
dress, was still predominant at the time of Libyan independence 
in 1951 . The subsequent discovery of petroleum and the new wealth 
that resulted, the continuing urban migration, and the sometimes 
extreme social changes of the Revolutionary era, however, have 
made progressive inroads in traditional ways. For example, in the 
cities, already to some extent Europeanized at the time of the Revo- 
lution in 1969, men and some younger women frequently wore 
Western clothing, but older women still dressed in the customary 


The Society and Its Environment 

Among the beduin tribes of the desert, seasonal shifts to new 
grazing lands in pursuit of rainfall and grass growth remained 
widespread. Some tribes were seminomadic, following their herds 
in summer but living in settled communities during the winter. 
Most of the rural population was sedentary, living in nuclear farm 
villages. But often the nomadic and the sedentary were mixed, some 
members of a clan or family residing in a village while younger 
members of the same group followed their flocks on a seasonal basis. 

The distinction between individual tribes was at least as signifi- 
cant as the distinction between Arab and non-Arab. Tracing their 
descent to ascribed common ancestors, various tribal groups have 
formed kinship and quasi-political units bound by loyalties that 
override all others. Although tribal ties remained important in some 
areas, the Revolutionary government had taken various measures 
to discourage the nomadic way of life that was basic to tribal exis- 
tence, and by the 1980s it appeared that tribal life was fast becom- 
ing a thing of the past. 

Arab influence permeates the culture, among both the common 
people and the social, political, economic, and intellectual elite. 
The cultural impact of the Italian colonial regime was superficial, 
and Libya — unlike other North African countries, with their legacy 
of French cultural domination — suffered no conflict of cultural iden- 
tity. As a rule, those few Libyans achieving higher education ob- 
tained it not in Europe but in neighboring Arab countries. 


Part of what was once the dominant ethnic group throughout 
North Africa, the Berbers of Libya today live principally in remote 
mountain areas or in desert localities where successive waves of 
Arab migration failed to reach or to which they retreated to escape 
the invaders (see fig. 5). In the 1980s Berbers, or native speakers 
of Berber dialects, constituted about 5 percent, or 135,000, of the 
total population, although a substantially larger proportion is bilin- 
gual in Arabic and Berber. Berber place-names are still common 
in some areas where Berber is no longer spoken. The language sur- 
vives most notably in the Jabal Nafusah highlands of Tripolitania 
and in the Cyrenaican town of Awjilah. In the latter, the customs 
of seclusion and concealment of women have been largely respon- 
sible for the persistence of the Berber tongue. Because it is used 
largely in public life, most men have acquired Arabic, but it has 
become a functional language for only a handful of modernized 
young women. 

By and large, cultural and linguistic, rather than physical, 
distinctions separate Berber from Arab. The touchstone of 


Libya: A Country Study 

I 1 Uninhabited 

Figure 5. Ethnic Groups 

Berberhood is the use of the Berber language. A continuum of 
related but not always mutually intelligible dialects, Berber is a 
member of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It is distantly related 
to Arabic, but unlike Arabic it has not developed a written form 
and as a consequence has no written literature. 

Unlike the Arabs, who see themselves as a single nation, Berbers 
do not conceive of a united Berberdom and have no name for them- 
selves as a people. The name Berber has been attributed to them 
by outsiders and is thought to derive from barbari, the term the 
ancient Romans applied to them. Berbers identify with their fam- 
ilies, clans, and tribe. Only when dealing with outsiders do they 
identify with other groupings such as the Tuareg. Traditionally, 
Berbers recognized private property, and the poor often worked 
the lands of the rich. Otherwise, they were remarkably egalitarian. 


The Society and Its Environment 

A majority of the surviving Berbers belong to the Khariji sect of 
Islam, which emphasizes the equality of believers to a greater extent 
than does the Maliki rite of Sunni Islam, which is followed by the 
Arab population (see Religious Life, this ch.). A young Berber 
sometimes visits Tunisia or Algeria to find a Khariji bride when 
none is available in his own community. 

Most of the remaining Berbers live in Tripolitania, and many 
Arabs of the region still show traces of their mixed Berber ances- 
try. Their dwellings are clustered in groups made up of related fam- 
ilies; households consist of nuclear families, however, and the land 
is individually held. Berber enclaves also are scattered along the 
coast and in a few desert oases. The traditional Berber economy 
has struck a balance between farming and pastoralism, the majority 
of the village or tribe remaining in one place throughout the year 
while a minority accompanies the flock on its circuit of seasonal 

Berbers and Arabs in Libya live together in general amicability, 
but quarrels between the two peoples occasionally erupted until 
recent times. A short-lived Berber state existed in Cyrenaica dur- 
ing 1911 and 1912. Elsewhere in the Maghrib during the 1980s, 
substantial Berber minorities continued to play important economic 
and political roles. In Libya their number was too small for them 
to enjoy corresponding distinction as a group. Berber leaders, how- 
ever, were in the forefront of the independence movement in 


About 10,000 Tuareg nomads live scattered in the southwest 
desert, wandering in the general vicinity of the oasis towns of Ghat 
and Ghadamis. They claim close relationship with the much larger 
Tuareg population in neighboring Algeria and with other Tuareg 
elsewhere in the Sahara. Like other desert nomads, they formerly 
earned their livelihood by raiding sedentary settlements, conduct- 
ing long-distance trading, and extracting protection fees from 
caravans and travelers. The ending of the caravan trade and pacifi- 
cation of the desert, however, have largely deprived this proud peo- 
ple of their livelihood and have reduced many to penury. 

The Tuareg language, Tamasheq, is a Berber dialect, and the 
Tuareg adhere to a form of Sunni Islam that incorporates nonor- 
thodox magical elements. Men — but not women — wear veils, and 
the blue dye used in the veils and clothing of nobles frequently trans- 
fers to the skin, causing the Tuareg to be known as "blue men." 
Marriage is monogynous, and Tuareg women enjoy high status; 
inheritance is through the female line, and as a general rule only 
women can read and write. 


Libya: A Country Study 
Black Africans 

In southernmost Libya live about 2,600 Tebu, part of a larger 
grouping of around 215,000 Tebu in northern Chad, Niger, and 
Sudan. Their ethnic identity and cohesion are defined by language, 
not social organization or geography, although all Tebu share many 
cultural traits. Their language, Tebu, is a member of the Nilo- 
Saharan language family, not all dialects being mutually intelligi- 
ble. The basic social unit is the nuclear family, organized into 
patrilineal clans. The Tebu economy is a combination of pastoral- 
ism, farming, and date cultivation. The Tebu are Muslim, their 
Islam being strongly molded by Sanusi proselytizing in the nine- 
teenth century (see The Sanusis, this ch.). Neighboring peoples 
view them as tough, solitary, desert and mountain people. 

A significant number of sub-Saharan Africans live in desert and 
coastal communities, mixed with Arabs and Berbers. Most of them 
are descended from former slaves — the last slave caravan is said 
to have reached Fezzan in 1929 — but some immigrated to Tripoli 
during World War II. In recent years, waves of migrant workers 
from Mali, Niger, Sudan, and other Sahelian countries have 
arrived. A majority work as farmers or sharecroppers in Fezzan, 
but some have migrated to urban centers, where they are occupied 
in a variety of jobs considered menial by most Libyans. 

Another distinct but numerically small group of blacks, the hara- 
thin (plowers, cultivators) have been in the Saharan oases for millen- 
nia. Their origins are obscure, but they appear to have been 
subservient to the Tuareg or other Libyan overlords for at least 
the last millennium. As with other blacks, their status has tradi- 
tionally been quite low. In Libya as a whole, dark-skinned people 
are looked down upon, the degree of discrimination increasing with 
the darkness of the skin. 

Other Peoples 

Jewish colonies were firmly established in both Cyrenaica and 
Tripoli before the Christian era. The Jews lived amicably with the 
Muslims until increasing pressure for a Jewish homeland after 
World War II caused violent anti-Jewish reactions throughout the 
Arab world. During the late 1940s, most of the Jewish population 
departed, many to take up residence in the new state of Israel. Anti- 
Jewish violence erupted in Tripoli in 1967, and in 1970 the Revolu- 
tionary government confiscated most remaining Jewish property, 
subject to compensation in government bonds. In the 1970s fewer 
than 100 members remained of a Jewish community that had num- 
bered 35,000 in 1948. 


A residual Italian community of nearly 30,000 continued to live 
in Libya during the 1960s, a majority in Tripoli and most of the 
remainder on farms in the surrounding area. A 1960 law had dis- 
couraged foreign residents by prohibiting their acquisition of 
additional land, and immediately after the 1969 Revolution a num- 
ber of new restrictions were imposed upon them. In 1970 the 
Revolutionary government issued a declaration that it would 
"restore to the Libyan people" the properties taken by Italians 
during the colonial period. Assurances of personal safety were given 
to foreigners, but nearly all of the Italians departed immediately, 
although some returned later. 

The European community in Libya in 1986 amounted to 40,000 
persons, a decline of more than half from the levels of 1984-85. 
Included in this figure were 100 to 300 Americans, most employed 
in the oil industry. 

Languages of Libya 

All but a small minority of the Libyan people are native Arabic- 
speakers and thus consider themselves to be Arabs. Arabic, a 
Semitic language, is the mother tongue of almost all peoples of 
North Africa and the Middle East. Three levels of the language 
are distinguishable: classical, the language of the Quran; modern 
standard, the form used in the present-day press; and the regional 
colloquial dialects. In Libya classical Arabic is used by religious 


Libya: A Country Study 

leaders; modern standard Arabic appears in formal and written 
communication and sometimes in the schools. Many people learn 
Quranic quotations without being able to speak the classical 

In classical Arabic, as in other Semitic scripts, the text is read 
from right to left, and only consonants are written. Vowel signs 
and other diacritical marks appear sometimes in printed texts as 
aids to pronunciation. Modern standard is grammatically simpler 
than classical and includes numerous words unknown to the Quran. 

The spoken dialects of Tripolitania and Fezzan belong to the 
Maghribi group, used throughout the Maghrib. They are mutu- 
ally intelligible but differ considerably from dialects in the Middle 
East. Dialects of Cyrenaica resemble those of Egypt and the Mid- 
dle East. Urban dialects differ somewhat from those of the hinter- 
land, and in the southern part of the country some Sudanese 
influence exists. 

Arabs find great beauty and style in their language. It is a key- 
stone of Arab nationalism and a symbol of Arab creativity. Libya 
has played a leading part in the campaign to make Arabic an offi- 
cial language in the forums of the UN and other international or- 
ganizations. Yet although Arabic has a richness of sound and a 
variety of vocabulary that make it a tongue for poets, its syntactic 
complexity makes it one of the world's most complex written lan- 
guages. Its intricate vocabulary also is not well suited as a medium 
for technical and scientific expression. Even modern standard 
Arabic contains little in the way of a technical vocabulary, in part 
because many Arabs are purists about their language and resist 
the intrusion of foreign words. 

These deficiencies of Arabic, coupled with a tradition in Arab 
schools of learning by rote methods, have seriously interfered with 
scientific and technical advancement. In Libya, as well as in the 
other Maghribi countries where a similar problem exists, educa- 
tors reluctantly recognize that preparation of suitable Arabic 
vocabulary additions, textbooks, and syllabi are still a generation 
or more away. In the meantime, scientific and technical subjects 
in the Libyan universities are in large part taught by foreigners 
employing foreign languages. 

Under the colonial regime, Italian was the language of instruc- 
tion in schools, but only a scattering of Muslim children attended 
these institutions. As a consequence, the Italian language did not 
take root in Libya to the extent that French did elsewhere in North 
Africa. Nevertheless, the strong wave of nationalism accompany- 
ing the 1969 Revolution found expression in a campaign designed 
to elevate the status of the Arabic language. An order was issued 


The Society and Its Environment 

requiring that all street signs, shop window notices, signboards, 
and traffic tickets be written in Arabic. This element of Arabiza- 
tion reached its apogee in 1973, when a decree was passed requir- 
ing that passports of persons seeking to enter the country contain 
the regular personal information in Arabic, a requirement that was 
strictly enforced. 

Despite the progress of Arabization during the 1970s, English 
occupied an increasingly important place as the second language 
of the country. It was taught from primary school onward, and 
in the universities numerous scientific, technical, and medical 
courses were conducted in English. A Tripoli shopkeeper or a hotel 
doorman was unlikely to speak the language, but business people 
were accustomed to corresponding in it. The government also issued 
at least some internal statistical documents and other publications 
in a bilingual English- Arabic format. In 1986 Qadhafi announced 
a policy of eliminating the teaching of English in favor of instruc- 
tion in Russian at all levels. Whether this policy would actually 
be carried out remained to be seen in 1987, but it seemed safe to 
assume that English would remain in wide use for the immediate 
future if not longer. 

Structure of Society 

Well into the postindependence period, tradition and traditional 
values dominated social life. Established religious and tribal prac- 
tices found expression in the policies and personal style of King 
Idris and his regime (see Independent Libya, ch. 1). The discov- 
ery of oil, however, released social forces that the traditional forms 
could not contain. In terms of both expectation and way of life, 
the old order was permanently disturbed. 

The various pressures of the colonial period, independence, and 
the development of the oil industry did much to alter the bases of 
urban society and to dissolve the tribal and village social structure. 
In particular, as the cash economy spread into the countryside, 
rural people were lured out of their traditional groups and into the 
modern sector. Values, too, began to change under the impact of 
new prosperity and the arrival of large numbers of foreigners. Since 
1969 the pace of change has greatly quickened. Yet, for all the new 
wealth from petroleum and despite relentless government-inspired 
efforts to remake Libyan society, the pace of social change was slow, 
and the country remained one of the most conservative in the Arab 

Evolutionary Changes in a Traditional Society 

To a great extent, the cities have been crucibles of social change 
in modern Libya. The Sanusi brotherhood drew its strength from 


Libya: A Country Study 

the tribal system of the desert, and the cities were marginal (see 
The Sanusi Order, ch. 1). More recently, however, they have be- 
come centers of attraction, drawing people out of the tribal and 
village systems and to some extent dissolving the bonds that held 
these systems together. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the 
1920s, urban centers had been organized around specific areas 
referred to as quarters. A city was composed of several quarters, 
each consisting of a number of families who had lived in that place 
for several generations and had become bound by feelings of solidar- 
ity. Families of every economic standing resided in the same 
quarter; the wealthy and the notable assumed leadership. Each 
quarter had leaders who represented it before the city at large, and 
to a great extent the quarter formed a small subsociety function- 
ing at an intimate level in a manner that made it in some respects 
similar to a country village. 

Occupations had different levels of acceptability. Carpenters, 
barbers, smiths of all kinds, plumbers, butchers, and mechanics 
were held in varying degrees of low esteem, with these kinds of 
work frequently performed by minority- group members. The op- 
probrium that continued to attach to the occupations even after 
independence, despite the good pay frequendy obtainable, has been 
attributed to the fact that such jobs did not originate in the pas- 
toral and agrarian life that was the heritage of most of the popu- 

The arrival of the Europeans disturbed the traditional equilibrium 
of urban life. Unaccustomed to the ways of life appropriate to tradi- 
tional housing, the newcomers built new cities along European lines, 
with wide streets, private lawns, and separate houses. As growing 
numbers of Libyans began to copy Europeans in dress and habits 
and to use European mass-produced products, local artisans were 
driven into reduced circumstances or out of business. European- 
style housing became popular among the well-to-do, and the old 
quarters gradually became neighborhoods of the poor. 

Urban migration, which began under the Italians, resulted in 
an infusion of progressively larger numbers of workers and laid 
the basis for the modern working class. The attractions of city life, 
especially for the young and educated, were not exclusively material. 
Of equal importance was the generally more stimulating urban en- 
vironment, particularly the opportunity to enjoy a wider range of 
social, recreational, cultural, and educational experiences. 

As urban migration continued to accelerate, housing shortages 
destroyed what was left of quarter solidarity. The quarters were 
flooded with migrants, and old family residences became tenements. 
At the same time, squatter slums began to envelop the towns, 


The Society and Its Environment 

housing those the town centers could not accommodate. In place 
of the old divisions based primarily on family background, income 
became the basic determinant of differentiation between residen- 
tial neighborhoods. 

Italian hegemony altered the bases of social distinction some- 
what, but the change was superficial and transitory; unlike the other 
Maghribi countries, Libya did not receive a heavy infusion of 
European culture. As a result, the Libyan urban elite did not suffer 
the same cultural estrangement from the mass of the people that 
occurred elsewhere in North Africa. At the end of the colonial 
period, vestiges of Italian influence dropped quickly, and Arab 
Muslim culture began to reassert itself. 

Before independence rural Libyans looked upon their tribal, 
village, and family leaders as the true sources of authority, and, 
in this sense, as their social elite. Appointments to government posi- 
tions were largely political matters, and most permanent govern- 
ment jobs were allocated through patronage. Local governments 
were controlled largely by traditional tribal leaders who were able 
to dispense patronage and thus to perpetuate their influence in the 
changing circumstances that attended the discovery of oil. 

The basic social units were the extended family, clan, and tribe. 
All three were the primary economic, educational, and welfare- 
providing units of their members. Individuals were expected to 
subordinate themselves and their interests to those units and to obey 
the demands they made. The family was the most important focus 
of attention and loyalty and source of security, followed by the tribe. 
In most cases, the most powerful family of a clan provided tribal 
leadership and determined the reputation and power of the tribe. 

Various criteria were used to evaluate individuals as well as fami- 
lies in the competition for preeminence. Lineage, wealth, and piety 
were among the most prominent. Throughout Libya's history, and 
especially during the period of the monarchy, family prominence 
and religious leadership became closely intertwined. Indeed, reli- 
gious leadership tended to reside within selected family groupings 
throughout the country and to be passed successively from gener- 
ation to generation. By the 1960s, local elites were still composed 
of individuals or families who owed their status to these same 
criteria. Local elites retained their position and legitimacy well into 
the mid-1970s, by which time the Revolutionary government had 
attempted to dislodge them, often without success. 

Rural social structures were tribally based, with the nomadic and 
seminomadic tribesmen organized into highly segmented units, as 
exemplified by the Sanusi of Cyrenaica (see The Sanusis, this ch.). 
Originally, tribe members had been nomads, some of the beduin 


Libya: A Country Study 

tracing their origins to the Arabian Peninsula. Pride in tribal mem- 
bership remained strong, despite the fact that many nomads had 
become sedentary. At the same time, tribally based social organi- 
zation, values, and world view raised formidable obstacles to the 
creation of a modern nation-state, because there were virtually no 
integrative or unifying institutions or social customs on the national 

In the mid-1970s, the nomads and seminomads who made up 
most of the effective tribal population were rapidly dwindling in 
numbers. Tent dwellers numbered an estimated 200,000 in 1973, 
less than 10 percent of the population, as compared with about 
320,000 nomads in 1964. Most of them lived in the extreme north 
of the country. 

By this time, the Revolutionary government had come to look 
upon tribal organization and values as antithetical to its policies. 
Even Qadhafi, despite his beduin roots, viewed tribes as anachronis- 
tic and as obstacles to modernization. Consequently, the govern- 
ment sought to break the links between the rural population and 
its traditional leaders by focusing attention on a new elite — the 
modernizers who represented the new leadership. The countryside 
was divided into zones that crossed old tribal boundaries, combin- 
ing different tribes in a common zone and splitting tribes in a man- 
ner that weakened traditional institutions and the force of local 
kinship. The ancient ascriptive qualifications for leadership — 
lineage, piety, wealth — gave way to competence and education as 
determined by formal examination. 

Tribal leaders, however, scoffed at efforts encouraging members 
to drop tribal affiliations, and pride in tribal lineage remained 
strong. This was remarkable in light of the fact that many tribes 
had long ago shed their beduin trappings and had become agrarian 
villagers. In effect, the government had brought about the aboli- 
tion of the tribal system but not the memories of tribal allegiance. 
According to a 1977 report, a survey of tribes had found that more 
than three-fourths of the members canvassed were still proud of 
their tribe and of their membership in it. Yet the attitude shown 
was a generally mild one; there was little opposition to the new 
programs and some recognition of the government's efforts on their 

The conversion of nomads into sedentary villagers was accom- 
panied or followed by the selective depopulation of many villages, 
as a disproportionate number of men between fifteen and forty- 
five left their herds, farms, and villages to seek urban employment. 
Their defection was a decisive factor in a decline in agricultural 
production during the 1970s. As a result, the Revolutionary 


The Society and Its Environment 

government adopted a variety of measures aimed at stemming the 
migration. Of particular importance was an extremely ambitious 
10-year agricultural land reclamation and farmer resettlement 
scheme initiated in 1972; its aim was to reclaim 1 million hectares 
of land and provide farms for tens of thousands of rural families. 
The hold of tradition showed in Cyrenaica, however, where farm- 
ers chose to resettle only in projects located in their tribal areas, 
where they could preserve both tribal and territorial linkages. 

Still, many of the most energetic and productive were leaving 
the countryside to seek employment in cities, oil fields, or construc- 
tion work or to become settlers in the new agricultural develop- 
ment schemes. In some cases entire farm villages considered by 
the government to be no longer viable were abandoned and their 
populations were moved elsewhere; thus, the social and political 
influence of local leaders was ended forever. At the same time 
modernization was coming to villages in the form of schools, hospi- 
tals, electric lights, and other twentieth-century features. In an in- 
creasing number of rural localities, former farm laborers who had 
received titles to farms also owned a house in which electricity, 
water, and modern appliances (including a radio and perhaps a 
television set) made their residences almost indistinguishable from 
those of prosperous urban dwellers. 

The Revolution and Social Change 

In their September 1969 Revolution, Qadhafi and the young 
officers who provided most of his support aimed with idealistic fervor 
at bringing to an end the social inequities that had marked both 
the colonial periods and the monarchical regime. The new govern- 
ment that resulted was socialist, but Qadhafi stressed that it was 
to be a kind of socialism inspired by the humanitarian values in- 
herent in Islam. It called for equitable distribution to reduce dis- 
parities between classes in a peaceful and affluent society, but in 
no sense was it to be a stage on the road to communism. 

On the eve of the 1969 Revolution, the royal family and its most 
eminent supporters and officeholders, drawn from a restricted cir- 
cle of wealthy and influential families, dominated Libyan society. 
These constituted what may be termed the traditional sociopoliti- 
cal establishment, which rested on patronage, clientage, and de- 
pendency. Beneath this top echelon was a small middle class. The 
Libyan middle class had always been quite small, but it had 
expanded significantly under the impact of oil wealth. In the 
mid-1960s, it consisted of several distinct social groupings: salar- 
ied religious leaders and bureaucrats, old families engaged in im- 
porting and contracting, entrepreneurs in the oil business, 


Libya: A Country Study 

shopkeepers, self-employed merchants and artisans and prosper- 
ous farmers and beduins. Workers in small industrial workshops, 
agricultural laborers, and peasant farmers, among others, com- 
posed the lower class. 

Most of the urban population consisted of the families of first- 
generation workers, small shopkeepers, and a horde of public 
workers. Above them were thin layers of the newly rich and of old, 
prosperous families. An urban working class, however, had largely 
failed to develop, and the middle class was a feeble one that in no 
way resembled the counterpart element that had become a vital 
political force in many other countries of the Arab world. 

At the top of the rural social structure, the shaykhs of the major 
tribes ruled on the basis of inherited status. In the cities, correspond- 
ing roles were played by the heads of the wealthy families and by 
religious figures. These leaders were jealous of their position and, 
far from concerning themselves with furthering social progress, saw 
modernization as a threat. In no way, however, did the leaders 
present a united front. 

The development of the petroleum industry was accompanied 
by profound technical and organizational changes and by the ap- 
pearance of a younger elite whose outlook had been greatly affected 
by technological advances: among their number were technocrats, 
students, and young army officers. Not the least notable of the fac- 
tors that set this new element apart was age. The civilians of this 
group, as well as the military officers, were for the most part in 
their thirties or younger, and their views had little in common with 
those of the aging authorities who had long controlled a swollen 
bureaucracy (11 percent of the 1969 labor force). More urbanized 
and better educated than their elders, this new group entertained 
hopes and aspirations that had been frustrated by the group sur- 
rounding King Idris. In particular, resentment had been aroused 
by the arbitrariness, corruption, and inefficiency of Idris' govern- 
ment as well as by its questionable probity in the distribution of 
oil-funded revenues. 

The young officers who formed the Free Officers Movement and 
its political nucleus, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), 
showed a great deal of dedication to the Revolutionary cause and 
a high degree of uniformity in political and economic outlook (see 
Qadhafi and the Revolutionary Command Council, ch. 1). In 
Libya, as in a number of other Arab countries, admission to the 
military academy and careers as army officers were options avail- 
able to members of the less privileged economic strata only after 
national independence was attained. A military career, offering new 
opportunities for higher education and upward economic and 


The Society and Its Environment 

social mobility, was thus a greater attraction for young men from 
poorer families than for those of the wealthy and the traditional 
elite. These youthful revolutionaries came from quite modest social 
backgrounds, representing the oases and the interior as opposed 
to the coastal cities, and the minor suppressed tribes as opposed 
to the major aristocratic ones. 

The officers of the RCC — all captains and lieutenants — repre- 
sented the forefront of a social revolution that saw the middle and 
lower middle classes assert control over social and political preroga- 
tives heretofore denied them. They quickly displaced the former 
elite of the Idris era and became themselves the prime movers of 
the Libyan state. Numbering only about a dozen men, they were 
gradually joined by sympathetic civilian and military personnel in 
constituting a new elite. 

By the late 1980s, this governing class consisted of Qadhafi and 
the half-dozen remaining members of the Free Officers Movement, 
government ministers and other high state officials and managers, 
second-echelon officers of the Free Officers Movement, and top 
officials and activists of local mass organizations and governing 
councils. Civilian officials, also part of the political elite, usually 
were better educated than their military colleagues. Many of them 
possessed college degrees, came from urban middle-class back- 
grounds, and were indispensable for the administrative function- 
ing of government and the economy. Below this elite was the upper 
middle class composed of educated technocrats, administrators, and 
remnants of a wealthy commercial and entrepreneurial class. The 
lower middle class contained small traders, teachers, successful 
farmers, and low-level officials and bureaucrats. This new and small 
revolutionary elite sought to restructure Libyan society. In broad 
terms, the young officers set off to create an egalitarian society in 
which class differences would be minimal and the country's oil 
wealth would be equally shared. Their aim was to curb the power 
and wealth of the old elite and to build support among the middle 
and lower middle classes from which they had come and with which 
they identified. The policies they devised to remold society after 
1969 entailed extension of state control over the national economy, 
creation of a new political structure, and redistribution of wealth 
and opportunity through such measures as minimum wage laws, 
state employment, and the welfare state. 

The Arab Socialist Union (ASU) created in 1971 was thus in- 
tended as a mass mobilization device (see Subnational Government 
and Administration, ch. 4). Its aim was the peaceful abolition of 
class differences to avoid the tragedy of a class struggle; the egalitar- 
ian nature of its composition was shown by a charter prescribing 


Libya: A Country Study 

that at all levels 50 percent of its members must be peasants and 
laborers. At the heart of the cultural revolution of 1973 was the 
establishment of people's committees (see The Popular Revolution 
and People's Committee, ch. 4). These were made up of working- 
level leaders in business and government, who became the local 
elites in the new society. That same year brought enactment of a 
law requiring that larger business firms share profits with their per- 
sonnel, appoint workers to their boards of directors, and establish 
joint councils composed of workers and managers. 

At the same time, the government launched a long-term cam- 
paign against a new privileged class pejoratively identified as "bour- 
geois bureaucrats." Multiple dismissals at this time included top 
university administrators, hospital directors, and oil-industry offi- 
cials, as well as numerous lower ranking employees. However, in 
1975, public administrators, including educational and public health 
service, made up nearly 24 percent of the labor force — more than 
twice the proportion at the time of the monarchy's demise. Late 
in 1976, a newspaper editorial complained that the labor force still 
contained tens of thousands of administrators and supervisors — 
most of them in the public sector — while in other countries this 
element seldom exceeded 2 percent of the total. 

Having attacked the bureaucracy and concentrations of wealth 
and privilege, the regime in the later 1970s dealt with the entre- 
preneurial middle class (see Role of Government, ch. 3). The first 
restrictions on private traders appeared as early as 1975, but the 
real blows came a few years later. A 1978 law struck at much-prized 
investments in private property by limiting ownership of houses 
and apartments to one per nuclear family, although the govern- 
ment promised compensation to the dispossessed. New restrictions 
were placed on commercial and industrial establishments, foreign 
trade became a monopoly of public corporations, workers assumed 
control of major industrial and commercial enterprises, and pri- 
vate wholesale trade was abolished. Finally, state investments and 
subsidies were shifted away from owners of small businesses. 

Although the Libyan middle class was suppressed by the above- 
mentioned restrictions in the late 1970s, it was not destroyed. In- 
deed, a significant number of its members adapted themselves to 
the social dictates of the Revolutionary regime by cooperation with 
it or by recruitment into the modernizing state apparatus. Its ranks 
still contained educated technocrats and administrators, without 
whose talents the state could not function, as well as remnants of 
the commercial and entrepreneurial class, some of them well-to- 
do. A separate category of small traders, shopkeepers, and farm- 
ers could also be identified. They, too, sought careers in the state 


The Society and Its Environment 

sector, although many of them continued to operate small busi- 
nesses alongside public enterprises. Those who could not adapt or 
who feared persecution fled abroad in significant numbers (see The 
Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, ch. 1). 

In contrast with the old regime, it was now possible for mem- 
bers of the middle and lower classes to seek and gain access to posi- 
tions of influence and power. The former criteria of high family 
or tribal status had given way to education to a considerable degree, 
although patronage and loyalty continued to be rewarded as well. 
But, in general, social mobility was much improved, a product of 
the revolutionary order that encouraged participation and leader- 
ship in such new institutions as the Basic People's Congresses and 
the revolutionary committees (see Glossary; see also The Subna- 
tional Government and Administration, ch. 4). Only the highest 
positions occupied by Qadhafi and a small number of his associ- 
ates were beyond the theoretical reach of the politically ambitious. 

The core elite in the 1980s, which consisted of Qadhafi and the 
few remaining military officers of the RCC, presented a signifi- 
cant contrast of its own with respect to the top political leadership 
of the Idris era. This was the result of a commitment to national 
unity and identity, as well as of common social background. Within 
this small group, the deeply ingrained regional cleavages of the past, 
particularly that between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, had almost 
disappeared and were no longer of political significance. Similarly, 
the ethnic distinction between Arab and Berber within the elite was 
no longer important. The old urban-rural and center-periphery 
oppositions, remained important, but they did not characterize the 
core elite itself. Rather, they differentiated the core elite from the 
country's former rulers, because the Revolutionary leadership was 
deeply rooted in the rural periphery, not the Mediterranean coastal 

The rest of society, including government officials immediately 
below Qadhafi, appeared to be a good deal less unified. Despite 
the exertions of the core elite, a sense of national unity and iden- 
tity had not yet developed in the late 1980s, and loyalty to region, 
tribe, and family remained stronger than allegiance to the state. 
There was much alienation from the regime, often expressed in 
terms of lethargy and passivity. Incessant pressures on the part of 
the regime to enlist as many people as possible in running public 
affairs had provoked much resentment and resistance. Many adults 
did not participate, despite the exhortations and oversight of the 
revolutionary committees, themselves a source of uncertainty and 

All of these pressures applied to the educated middle class, esti- 
mated to number perhaps 50,000 out of a total population of 3.6 


Libya: A Country Study 

million. Many were clearly alienated by the shortages of consumer 
goods, the militarization of society, and the constant demands to 
participate actively in the institutions of the jamahiriya (see Glos- 
sary), sentiments that characterized other social classes as well. Like 
their fellow citizens, the educated sought refuge in the affairs of 
their families, demonstrating yet again the strength of traditional 
values over revolutionary norms, or in foreign travel, especially 
in Europe. 

The country's youth were also pulled in opposite directions. By 
the mid-1980s, the vast majority knew only the Revolutionary era 
and its achievements. Because these gains were significant, not sur- 
prisingly young people were among the most dedicated and visi- 
ble devotees of the Revolution and Qadhafi. They had benefited 
most from increased educational opportunities, attempted reforms 
of dowry payments, and the emancipation of young women (see 
The Family, the Individual, and the Sexes, this ch.). Libyan youth 
also enjoyed far more promising employment prospects than their 
counterparts elsewhere in the Maghrib. 

With few outlets such as recreation centers or movies for their 
energies, a large number of youth were found in the revolutionary 
committees, where they pursued their task of enforcing political 
conformity and participation with a vigor that at times approached 
fanaticism. Others kept watch over the state administration and 
industry in an attempt to improve efficiency. Not all were so enthu- 
siastic about revolutionary goals, however. For instance, there was 
distaste for military training among students in schools and univer- 
sities, especially when it presaged service in the armed forces. In 
the 1980s, some of this disdain had resulted in demonstrations and 
even in executions (see Opposition to Qadhafi, ch. 4). 

By the late 1980s, Libyan society clearly showed the impact of 
almost two decades of attempts at restructuring. The country was 
an army-dominated state under the influence of no particular class 
or group and was relatively free from the clash of competing 
interests. Almost all sources of power in traditional life had been 
eliminated or coopted. Unlike states such as Saudi Arabia that en- 
deavored to develop their societies within the framework of tradi- 
tional political and economic systems, Libya had discarded most 
of the traditional trappings and was using its great wealth to trans- 
form the country and its people. 

With its highly egalitarian socialist regime, Libya differed con- 
siderably in its social structure from other oil-rich states. Salaries 
and wages were high, and social services were extensive and free. 
There was much less accumulation of private wealth than in other 


The Society and Its Environment 

oil states, and social distinction was discouraged as a matter of 
deliberate public policy. But Libyan society was deeply divided, 
and entire segments of the population were only superficially com- 
mitted to the course that the revolutionary regime had outlined. 
And while the old order was clearly yielding to the new, there was 
much doubt and unease about where society and state were headed. 

The Family, the Individual, and the Sexes 

Social life in Libya centered traditionally on the individual's fam- 
ily loyalty, which overrode other obligations. Ascribed status often 
outweighed personal achievement in regulating social relationships, 
and the individual's honor and dignity were tied to the good re- 
pute of the kin group, especially to that of its women. 

Women have played a role secondary to that of men in most 
aspects of life, and tradition has prescribed that they remain in the 
home, often in seclusion. The status of women in the 1970s, 
however, improved substantially, and the once-common seclusion 
became less common. Nonetheless, to a considerable extent the two 
sexes continued to constitute largely separate subsocieties, each with 
its own values, attitudes, and perceptions of the other. 

Family and Household 

Libyans reckon kinship patrilineally, and the household is based 
on blood ties between men. A typical household consists of a man, 
his wife, his single and married sons with their wives and children, 
his unmarried daughters, and perhaps other relatives, such as a 
widowed or divorced mother or sister. At the death of the father, 
each son ideally establishes his own household to begin the cycle 
again. Because of the centrality of family life, it is assumed that 
all persons will marry when they reach an appropriate age. Adult 
status is customarily bestowed only on married men and, frequently, 
only on fathers. 

In traditional North African society, family patriarchs ruled as 
absolute masters over their extended families, and in Libya the in- 
stitution seems to have survived somewhat more tenaciously than 
elsewhere in the area. Despite the changes in urban and rural so- 
ciety brought about by the 1969 Revolution, the Revolutionary 
government has repeatedly stated that the family is the core of 

The 1973 census, the last for which complete data were avail- 
able in mid- 1987, showed that the typical household consisted of 
five to six individuals and that about 1 2 percent of the households 
were made up of eight or more members. The pattern was about 
the same as that reported from the 1964 census, and a 1978 Tripoli 


Libya: A Country Study 

newspaper article called attention to the continued strength of the 
extended family. Individuals subordinated their personal interests 
to those of the family and considered themselves to be members 
of a group whose importance outweighed their own. Loyalty to fam- 
ily, clan, and tribe outweighed loyalty to a profession or class and 
inhibited the emergence of new leaders and a professional elite. 

Marriage is more a family than a personal affair and a civil con- 
tract rather than a religious act. Because the sexes generally were 
unable to mix socially, young men and women enjoyed few ac- 
quaintances among the opposite sex. Parents arranged marriages 
for their children, finding a mate either through their own social 
contacts or through a professional matchmaker. Unions between 
the children of brothers were customarily preferred, or at least 
matches between close relatives or within the same tribe. One study, 
however, showed that many marriages occurred outside these 
bounds, the result of increased levels of education and internal 
migration. Nomads, particularly the Tuareg, have always allowed 
much more freedom of choice and courtship. 

According to law, the affianced couple must have given their 
consent to the marriage, but in practice the couple tends to take 
little part in the arrangements. The contract establishes the terms 
of the union and outlines appropriate recourse if they are broken. 
The groom's family provides a dowry, which can amount to the 
equivalent of US$10,000 in large cities. Accumulation of the req- 
uisite dowry may be one reason that males tend to be several years 
older than females at the time of marriage. 

Islamic law gives the husband far greater discretion and far 
greater leeway with respect to marriage than it gives the wife. For 
example, the husband may take up to four wives at one time, 
provided that he can treat them equally; a woman, however, can 
have only one husband at a time. Despite the legality of polygyny, 
only 3 percent of marriages in the 1980s were polygynous, the same 
as a decade earlier. A man can divorce his wife simply by repeat- 
ing "I divorce thee" three times before witnesses; a woman can 
initiate divorce proceedings only with great difficulty. Any chil- 
dren of the union belong to the husband's family and remain with 
him after the divorce. 

Both the monarchical and Revolutionary governments enacted 
statutes improving the position of females with respect to mar- 
riage. The minimum age for marriage was set at sixteen for females 
and at eighteen for males. Marriage by proxy has been forbidden, 
and a 1972 law prescribes that a girl cannot be married against 
her will or when she is under the age of sixteen. Should her father 
forbid her marriage to a man whom she has chosen for herself, 


The Society and Its Environment 

a girl who is a minor (under the age of twenty-one) may petition 
a court for permission to proceed with her marriage. 

The Revolutionary government has enacted several statutes ex- 
panding women's rights and restricting somewhat those of men 
in matters of divorce. Women received increased rights to seek 
divorce or separation by either customary or legal means in cases 
of abandonment or mistreatment. Other laws prohibit a man from 
taking a second spouse without first obtaining the approval of his 
first wife and forbid a divorced man from marrying an alien woman, 
even an Arab from another country. A companion law prohibits 
men in the employ of the state from marrying non-Arab women. 
Yet the child born abroad of a Libyan father is eligible for Libyan 
citizenship irrespective of the mother's nationality, while a child 
born to a Libyan mother would not be accorded automatic Libyan 

In a society as tradition-bound as Libya's, the effects of these 
new laws were problematic. Despite the backing of the regime and 
Qadhafi's calls for still further modifications in favor of women, 
the society reportedly was not yet ready to acknowledge the new 
rights, and women were still hesitant in claiming them. 

The Traditional View of Men and Women 

The social setting of the family significantly affects the circum- 
stances of a wife. Until the discovery of petroleum — and to a lesser 
degree until the 1969 Revolution — conservative attitudes and values 
about women dominated society. By the 1980s, however, modifi- 
cations in the traditional relationship between the sexes were be- 
coming evident, and important changes were appearing in the 
traditional role of women. These varied with the age, education, 
and place of residence of the women. 

In traditional society, beduin women — who did not wear the veil 
that symbolized the inferior and secluded status of women — played 
a relatively open part in tribal life. Women in villages also frequently 
were unveiled and participated more actively in the affairs of their 
community than did their urban counterparts. Their relative free- 
dom, however, did not ordinarily permit their exposure to outsiders. 
A sociologist visiting a large oasis village as recently as the late 1960s 
told of being unable to see the women of the community and of 
being forced to canvass their opinions by means of messages passed 
by their husbands. The extent to which the community was chang- 
ing, however, was indicated by the considerable number of girls 
in secondary school and the ability of young women to find modern- 
sector jobs — opportunities that had come into being only during 
the 1960s. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Urban women tended to be more sophisticated and socially 
aware, but they were also more conservative in social relations and 
dress. For example, unlike rural women, who moved freely in the 
fields and villages, urban women walked in the street discreetly 
in veiled pairs, avoiding public gathering places as well as social 
contact with men. Among the upper class urban families, women 
fulfilled fewer and less important economic functions, and their 
responsibilities were often limited to the household. Greater sex- 
ual segregation was imposed in the cities than in the countryside 
because tribal life and life in farm villages made segregation virtu- 
ally impossible. 

While women remained in the home, men formed a society 
organized into several recognizable groupings. These consisted of 
such coteries as school classmates, village or family work associ- 
ates, athletic clubs, or circles of friends meeting in cafes. In earlier 
times, the group might have been a religious brotherhood. 

Like most Arabs, Libyans valued men more highly than wom- 
en. Girls' upbringing quickly impressed on them that they were 
inferior to men and must cater to them; boys learned that they were 
entitled to demand the care and concern of women. Men regarded 
women as creatures apart, weaker than men in mind, body, and 
spirit. They were considered more sensual, less disciplined, and 
in need of protection from both their own impulses and the excesses 
of strange men. 

The honor of the men of the family, easily damaged and nearly 
irreparable, depended on the conduct of their women. Wives, sis- 
ters, and daughters were expected to be circumspect, modest, and 
decorous, with their virtue above reproach. The slightest implica- 
tion of unavenged impropriety, especially if made public, could 
irreparably destroy a family's honor. Female virginity before mar- 
riage and sexual fidelity thereafter were essential to honor's main- 
tenance, and discovery of a transgression traditionally bound men 
of the family to punish the offending woman. 

A girl's parents were eager for her to marry at the earliest possi- 
ble age in order to forestall any loss of her virginity. After mar- 
riage, the young bride went to the home of her bridegroom's family, 
often in a village or neighborhood where she was a stranger and 
into a household where she lived under the constant and sometimes 
critical surveillance of her mother-in-law, a circumstance that fre- 
quently led to a great deal of friction. In traditional society, girls 
were married in their early teens to men considerably their senior. 
A woman began to attain status and security in her husband's family 
only if she produced boys. Mothers accordingly favored sons, and 
in later life the relationship between mother and son often remained 


The Society and Its Environment 

warm and intimate, whereas the father was a more distant figure. 
Throughout their years of fertility, women were assumed to have 
an irrepressible sexual urge, and it was only after menopause that 
a supposed asexuality bestowed on them a measure of freedom and 
some of the respect accorded senior men. Old age was assumed 
to commence with menopause, and the female became an azuz, 
or old woman. 

The New Society of the Revolutionary Era 

The roles and status of women have been the subject of a great 
deal of discussion and legal action in Libya, as they have in many 
countries of the Middle East. Some observers suggested that the 
regime made efforts on behalf of female emancipation because it 
viewed women as an essential source of labor in an economy chron- 
ically starved for workers. They also postulated that the govern- 
ment was interested in expanding its political base, hoping to curry 
favor by championing female rights. Since independence, Libyan 
leaders have been committed to improving the condition of women 
but within the framework of Arabic and Islamic values. For this 
reason, the pace of change has been slow. 

Nonetheless, by the 1980s relations within the family and be- 
tween the sexes, along with all other aspects of Libyan life, had 
begun to show notable change. As the mass media popularized new 
ideas, new perceptions and practices appeared. Foreign settlers and 
foreign workers frequently embodied ideas and values distinctive- 
ly different from those traditional in the country. In particular, the 
perceptions of Libyans in everyday contact with Europeans were 

The continued and accelerating process of urbanization has 
broken old kinship ties and association with ancestral rural com- 
munities. At the same time, opportunities for upward social move- 
ment have increased, and petroleum wealth and the development 
plans of the Revolutionary government have made many new kinds 
of employment available — for the first time including jobs for 
women. Especially among the educated young, a growing sense 
of individualism has appeared. Many of these educated and in- 
creasingly independent young people prefer to set up their own 
households at marriage rather than to live with their parents, and 
they view polygyny with scorn. In addition, social security, free 
medical care, education, and other appurtenances of the welfare 
state have lessened the dependence of the aged on their children 
in village communities and have almost eliminated it in the cities 
(see Health and Welfare, this ch.). 


Libya: A Country Study 

In the 1970s, female emancipation was in large measure a mat- 
ter of age. One observer generalized that city women under the 
age of thirty-five had discarded the traditional veil and were quite 
likely to wear Western- style clothing. Those between the ages of 
thirty-five and forty-five were increasingly ready to consider such 
a change, but women over the age of forty-five appeared reluctant 
to give up the protection their veils and customary dress afforded. 
A decade later, veiling was uncommon among urban women, as 
it had always been in rural areas. Women were also increasingly 
seen driving, shopping, or traveling without husbands or male com- 

Since the early 1960s, Libyan women have had the right to vote 
and to participate in political life. They could also own and dispose 
of property independently of their husbands, but all of these rights 
were exercised by only a few women before the 1969 Revolution. 
Since then, the government has encouraged women to participate 
in elections and national political institutions, but by 1987 only 
one woman had advanced as far as the national cabinet, as an as- 
sistant secretary for information and culture. 

Women were also able to form their own associations, the first 
of which dated to 1955 in Benghazi. In 1970 several feminist orga- 
nizations merged into the Women's General Union, which in 1977 
became the Jamahiriya Women's Federation. Under Clause 5 of 
the Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969, women 
had already been given equal status under the law with men. Sub- 
sequently, the women's movement has been active in such fields 
as adult education and hygiene. The movement has achieved only 
limited influence, however, and its most active members have felt 
frustrated by their inability to gain either direct or indirect politi- 
cal influence. 

Women had also made great gains in employment outside the 
home, the result of improved access to education and of increased 
acceptance of female paid employment. Once again, the govern- 
ment was the primary motivating force behind this phenomenon. 
For example, the 1976-80 development plan called for employment 
of a larger number of women "in those spheres which are suitable 
for female labor," but the Libyan identification of what work was 
suitable for women continued to be limited by tradition. Accord- 
ing to the 1973 census, the participation rate for women (the per- 
cent of all women engaged in economic activity) was about 3 percent 
as compared with 37 percent for men. The participation was some- 
what higher than the 2.7 percent registered in 1964, but it was con- 
siderably lower than that in other Maghrib countries and in most 
of the Middle Eastern Arab states. 


The Society and Its Environment 

In the 1980s, in spite of the gain registered by women during 
the prior decade, females constituted only 7 percent of the national 
labor force, according to one informed researcher. This represented 
a 2 -percent increase over a 20-year period. Another source, how- 
ever, considered these figures far too low. Reasoning from 1973 
census figures and making allowances for full- and part-time, 
seasonal, paid, and unpaid employment, these researchers argued 
convincingly that women formed more than 20 percent of the total 
economically active Libyan population. For rural areas their figure 
was 46 percent, far higher than official census numbers for workers 
who in most cases were not only unpaid but not even considered 
as employed. 

Among nonagricultural women, those who were educated and 
skilled were overwhelmingly employed as teachers. The next highest 
category of educated and skilled women was nurses and those found 
in the health-care field. Other areas that were open to women in- 
cluded administrative and clerical work in banks, department stores, 
and government offices, and domestic services. Women were found 
in ever larger numbers as nurses and midwives, but even so, Lib- 
yan health care facilities suffered from a chronic shortage of staff. 

By contrast, in clerical and secretarial jobs, the problem was not 
a shortage of labor but a deep-seated cultural bias against the inter- 
mingling of men and women in the workplace. During the 1970s, 
the attraction of employment as domestics tended to decline, as 
educated and ambitious women turned to more lucrative occupa- 
tions. To fill the gap, Libyan households sought to hire foreign- 
ers, particularly Egyptians and Tunisians. 

Light industry, especially cottage-style, was yet another outlet 
for female labor, a direct result of Libya's labor shortage. Despite 
these employment outlets and gains, female participation in the 
work force of the 1980s remained small, and many so-called "female 
jobs" were filled by foreign women. Also, in spite of significant 
increases in female enrollments in the educational system, includ- 
ing university level, few women were found, even as technicians, 
in such traditionally male fields as medicine, engineering, and law. 

Nonurban women constituted a quite significant if largely invis- 
ible proportion of the rural work force, as previously mentioned. 
According to the 1973 census, there were only 14,000 economi- 
cally active women out of a total of 200,000 rural females older 
than age 10. In all likelihood, however, many women engaged in 
agricultural or domestic tasks worked as unpaid members of fam- 
ily groups and hence were not regarded as gainfully employed, 
accounting at least in part for the low census count. Estimates of 
actual female rural employment in the mid-1970s, paid and 


Libya: A Country Study 

unpaid, ranged upward of 86,000, as compared with 96,000 men 
in the rural work force. In addition to agriculture, both rural and 
nomadic women engaged in the weaving of rugs and carpets, 
another sizable category of unpaid and unreported labor. 

Beginning in 1970, the Revolutionary government passed a series 
of laws regulating female employment. Equal pay for equal work 
and qualifications became a fundamental precept. Other statutes 
strictly regulated the hours and conditions of work. Working 
mothers enjoyed a range of benefits designed to encourage them 
to continue working even after marriage and childbirth, including 
cash bonuses for the first child and free day-care centers. A woman 
could retire at age fifty-five, and she was entitled to a pension (see 
Health and Welfare, this ch.). Recently, the regime has sought to 
introduce women into the armed forces (see Women in the Armed 
Forces, ch. 5). In the early 1980s the so-called "Nuns of the Revo- 
lution" were created as a special police force attached to revolu- 
tionary committees. Then in 1984 a law mandating female 
conscription that required all students in secondary schools and 
above to participate in military training was passed. In addition, 
young women were encouraged to attend female military acade- 
mies, the first of which was established in 1979. These proposals 
originated with Qadhafi, who hoped that they would help create 
a new image and role for the Libyan woman. Nonetheless, the con- 
cept of female training in the martial arts encountered such 
widespread opposition that meaningful compliance seemed unlikely. 

The status of women was thus an issue that was very much alive. 
There could be no doubt that the status of women had undergone 
a remarkable transformation since the 1969 Revolution, but cul- 
tural norms were proving to be a powerful brake on the efforts of 
the Qadhafi regime to force the pace of that transformation. And 
despite the exertions and rhetoric of the government, men con- 
tinued to play the leading roles in family and society. As one ob- 
server pointed out, political and social institutions were each pulling 
women in opposite directions. In the late 1980s, the outcome of 
that contest was by no means a foregone conclusion. 

Religious Life 

Nearly all Libyans adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam, which 
provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for 
government policy. Its tenets stress a unity of religion and state 
rather than a separation or distinction between the two, and even 
those Muslims who have ceased to believe fully in Islam retain 
Islamic habits and attitudes. Since the 1969 coup, the Qadhafi 
regime has explicitly endeavored to reaffirm Islamic values, 


The Society and Its Environment 

enhance appreciation of Islamic culture, elevate the status of 
Quranic law and, to a considerable degree, emphasize Quranic 
practice in everyday Libyan life. 

In A.D. 610, Muhammad (the Prophet), a prosperous merchant 
of the town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series of reve- 
lations said to have been granted him by God (Allah) through the 
agency of the archangel Gabriel. The divine messages, received 
during solitary visits into the desert, continued during the remainder 
of his life. 

Muhammad denounced the polytheistic paganism of his fellow 
Meccans, his vigorous and continuing censure ultimately earning 
him their bitter enmity. In 622 he and a group of his followers were 
forced to flee to Yathrib, which became known as Medina (the city) 
through its association with him. The hijra (flight, known in the 
West as the hegira) marked the beginning of the Islamic era and 
of Islam as a powerful historical force; the Muslim calendar begins 
with the year 622. In Medina Muhammad continued his preach- 
ing, ultimately defeated his detractors in battle, and had consoli- 
dated the temporal as well as spiritual leadership of most Arabs 
in his person before his death in 632. 

After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled his words that 
were regarded as coming directly from God in a document known 
as the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. Other sayings and teach- 
ings of the Prophet, as well as the precedents of his personal be- 
havior as recalled by those who had known him, became the hadith 
(' 'sayings"). From these sources, the faithful have constructed the 
Prophet's customary practice, or sunna, which they endeavor to 
emulate. Together, these documents form a comprehensive guide 
to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of the faithful in most Mus- 
lim countries. 

In a short time, Islam was transformed from a small religious 
community into a dynamic political and military authority. Dur- 
ing the seventh century, Muslim conquerors reached Libya, and 
by the eighth century most of the resistance mounted by the in- 
digenous Berbers had ended. The urban centers soon became sub- 
stantially Islamic, but widespread conversion of the nomads of the 
desert did not come until after large-scale invasions in the eleventh 
century by beduin tribes from Arabia and Egypt. 

A residue of pre-Islamic beliefs blended with the pure Islam of 
the Arabs. Hence, popular Islam became an overlay of Quranic 
ritual and principles upon the vestiges of earlier beliefs — prevalent 
throughout North Africa — in jinns (spirits), the evil eye, rites to 
ensure good fortune, and cult veneration of local saints. The edu- 
cated of the cities and towns served as the primary bearers and 
guardians of the more austere brand of orthodox Islam. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Tenets of Islam 

The shahadah (profession of faith, or testimony) states succinctly 
the central belief, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad 
is his Prophet." The faithful repeat this simple profession on rit- 
ual occasions, and its recital designates the speaker as a Muslim. 
The term Islam means submission to God, and the one who sub- 
mits is a Muslim. 

The God preached by Muhammad was previously known to his 
countrymen, for Allah is the general Arabic term for the supreme 
being rather than the name of a particular deity. Rather than in- 
troducing a new deity, Muhammad denied the existence of the pan- 
theon of gods and spirits worshipped before his prophethood and 
declared the omnipotence of God, the unique creator. Muham- 
mad is the "Seal of the Prophets," the last of the prophetic line. 
His revelations are said to complete for all time the series of reve- 
lations that had been given earlier to Jews and Christians. God 
is believed to have remained one and the same throughout time, 
but humans are seen as having misunderstood or strayed from 
God's true teachings until set aright by Muhammad. Prophets and 
sages of the biblical tradition, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus 
are recognized as inspired vehicles of God's will. Islam, however, 
reveres as sacred only the message, rejecting Christianity's deifi- 
cation of the messenger. It accepts the concepts of guardian angels, 
the Day of Judgment, resurrection, and the eternal life of the soul. 

The duties of the Muslim form the "five pillars" of the faith. 
These are shahadah, salat (daily prayer), zakat (almsgiving), sawm 
(fasting), and hajj (pilgrimage). The believer prays facing Mecca 
at five specified times during the day. Whenever possible, men ob- 
serve their prayers in congregation at a mosque under direction 
of an imam, or prayer leader, and on Fridays are obliged to do 
so. Women are permitted to attend public worship at the mosque, 
where they are segregated from men, but their attendance tends 
to be discouraged, and more frequently they pray in the seclusion 
of their homes. 

In the early days of Islam, a tax for charitable purposes was im- 
posed on personal property in proportion to the owner's wealth; 
the payment purified the remaining wealth and made it religious- 
ly legitimate. The collection of this tax and its distribution to the 
needy were originally functions of the state. But with the break- 
down of Muslim religiopolitical authority, alms became an individu- 
al responsibility. With the discovery of petroleum in Libya and 
the establishment of a welfare society, almsgiving has been largely 
replaced by public welfare and its significance diluted accordingly 
(see Health and Welfare, this ch.). 


A mosque in Tripoli 
Courtesy United Nations 


Libya: A Country Study 

Fasting is practiced during the ninth month of the Muslim cal- 
endar. Ramadan, the time during which the first revelations to 
Muhammad found in the Quran occurred. It is a period during 
which most Muslims must abstain from food, drinking, smoking, 
and sexual activity during the daylight hours. The well-to-do 
accomplish little work during this period, and many businesses close 
or operate on reduced schedules. Because the months of the lunar 
calendar revolve through the solar year. Ramadan occurs during 
various seasons. In Libya, among the strictest of Muslim coun- 
tries, cafes must remain closed during the day; they open their doors 
after dark, and feasting takes place during the night. 

Finally, at least once during their lifetime all Muslims should 
make the hajj to the holy city of Mecca to participate in the special 
rites that occur during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. 
Upon completion of this and certain other ritual assignments, the 
returning pilgrim is entitled to the honorific ''al Haj," before his 

In addition to prescribing specific duties, Islam imposes a code 
of conduct entailing generosity, fairness, honesty, and respect for 
others. Its proscribes adultery, gambling, usury, and the consump- 
tion of carrion, blood, pork, and alcohol. .Although proscription 
of alcohol is irregularly enforced in most Muslim countries, the 
Libyan Revolutionary government has been strict in ensuring that 
its prohibition be effective, even in the households of foreign 

Muslims traditionally are subject to the sharia, or religious law, 
which — as interpreted by religious courts — covers most aspects of 
life. In Libya the Maliki school is followed. One of several schools 
of Islamic law, it predominates throughout North Africa. The 
sharia. which was developed by jurists from the Quran and from 
the traditions of the Prophet, provides a complete pattern for human 

Saints and Brotherhoods 

Islam as practiced in North Africa is interlaced with indigenous 
Berber beliefs. .Although the orthodox faith preached the unique 
and inimitable majesty and sanctity of God and the equality of 
God's believers, an important element of North African Islam for 
centuries has been a belief in the coalescence of special spiritual 
power in particular living human beings. The power is known as 
baraka. a transferable quality of personal blessedness and spiritual 
force said to lodge in certain individuals. Those whose claim to 
possess baraka can be substantiated — through performance of 
apparent miracles, exemplary human insight, or genealogical 


The Society and Its Environment 

connection with a recognized possessor — are viewed as saints. These 
persons are known in the West as marabouts, a French translitera- 
tion of al murabitun (those who have made a religious retreat), and 
the benefits of their baraka are believed to accrue to those ordinary 
people who come in contact with them. 

The cult of saints became widespread in rural areas; in urban 
localities, Islam in its orthodox form continued to prevail. Saints 
were present in Tripolitania, but they were particularly numer- 
ous in Cyrenaica. Their baraka continued to reside in their tombs 
after their deaths. The number of venerated tombs varied from 
tribe to tribe, although there tended to be fewer among the camel 
herders of the desert than among the sedentary and nomadic tribes 
of the plateau area. In one village, a visitor in the late 1960s counted 
sixteen still-venerated tombs. 

Coteries of disciples frequently clustered around particular saints, 
especially those who preached an original tariqa (devotional "way"). 
Brotherhoods of the followers of such mystical teachers appeared 
in North Africa at least as early as the eleventh century and in some 
cases became mass movements. The founder ruled an order of fol- 
lowers, who were organized under the frequently absolute authority 
of a leader, or shaykh. The brotherhood was centered on a zawiya 
(pi., zawaayaa — see Glossary). 

Because of Islam's austere rational and intellectual qualities, 
many people have felt drawn toward the more emotional and per- 
sonal ways of knowing God practiced by mystical Islam, or Sufism. 
Found in many parts of the Muslim world, Sufism endeavored to 
produce a personal experience of the divine through mystic and 
ascetic discipline. 

Sufi adherents gathered into brotherhoods, and Sufi cults became 
extremely popular, particularly in rural areas. Sufi brotherhoods 
exercised great influence and ultimately played an important part 
in the religious revival that swept through North Africa during the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Libya, when the Ottoman 
Empire proved unable to mount effective resistance to the encroach- 
ment of Christian missionaries, the work was taken over by Sufi- 
inspired revivalist movements. Among these, the most forceful and 
effective was that of the Sanusis, which extended into numerous 
parts of North Africa. 

The Sanusis 

The Sanusi movement was a religious revival adapted to desert 
life. Its zawaayaa could be found in Tripolitania and Fezzan, 
but Sanusi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the 
region from unrest and anarchy, the Sanusi movement gave the 


Libya: A Country Study 

Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity 
and purpose. 

The Sanusis formed a nucleus of resistance to the Italian colonial 
regime (see Italian Colonialism, ch. 1). As the nationalism fostered 
by unified resistance to the Italians gained adherents, however, the 
religious fervor of devotion to the movement began to wane, par- 
ticularly after the Italians destroyed Sanusi religious and educa- 
tional centers during the 1930s. Nonetheless, King Idris, the 
monarch of independent Libya, was the grandson of the founder 
of the Sanusi movement, and his status as a Sanusi gave him the 
unique ability to command respect from the disparate parts of his 

Despite its momentary political prominence, the Sanusi move- 
ment never regained its strength as a religious force after its zawaayaa 
were destroyed by the Italians. A promised restoration never fully 
took place, and the Idris regime used the Sanusi heritage as a means 
of legitimizing political authority rather than of providing religious 

After unseating Idris in 1969, the Revolutionary government 
placed restrictions on the operation of the remaining zawaayaa, ap- 
pointed a supervisor for Sanusi properties, and merged the Sanusi- 
sponsored Islamic University with the University of Libya. The 
movement was virtually banned, but in the 1980s occasional evi- 
dence of Sanusi activity was nonetheless reported. 

Islam in Revolutionary Libya 

Under the Revolutionary government, the role of orthodox Islam 
in Libyan life has become progressively more important. Qadhafi 
is a highly devout Muslim who has repeatedly expressed a desire 
to exalt Islam and to restore it to its proper — i.e., central — place 
in the life of the people. He believes that the purity of Islam has 
been sullied through time, particularly by the influence of Euro- 
peans during and after the colonial period, and that its purity must 
be restored — by such actions as the restoration of sharia to its proper 
place as the basis of the Libyan legal system, the banning of "im- 
modest" practices and dress, and the symbolic purification of major 
urban mosques that took place in 1978. 

Qadhafi also believes in the value of the Quran as a moral and 
political guide for the contemporary world, as is evident from his 
tract, The Green Book, published in the mid-1970s (see The Green 
Book, ch. 4). Qadhafi considers the first part of The Green Book to 
be a commentary on the implications of the Quranic injunction 
that human affairs be managed by consultation. For him, this means 
direct democracy, which is given "practical meaning" through the 


The Society and Its Environment 

creation of people's committees and popular congresses. Qadhafi 
feels that, inasmuch as The Green Book is based solely on the Quran, 
its provisions are universally applicable — at least among Muslims. 

Soon after taking office, the Qadhafi government showed itself 
to be devoutly fundamentalist by closing bars and nightclubs, ban- 
ning entertainment deemed provocative or immodest, and mak- 
ing use of the Muslim calendar mandatory. The intention of reestab- 
lishing sharia was announced, and Qadhafi personally assumed 
chairmanship of a commission to study the problems involved. In 
November 1973, a new legal code was issued that revised the entire 
Libyan judicial system to conform to the sharia, and in 1977 the 
General People's Congress (GPC — see Glossary) issued a state- 
ment that all future legal codes would be based on the Quran. 

Among the laws enacted by the Qadhafi government a series 
of legal penalties prescribed during 1973 included the punishment 
of armed robbery by amputation of a hand and a foot. The legis- 
lation contained qualifying clauses making its execution unlikely, 
but its enactment had the effect of applying Quranic principles in 
the modern era. Another act prescribed flogging for individuals 
breaking the fast of Ramadan, and yet another called for eighty 
lashes to be administered to both men and women guilty of forni- 

In the early 1970s, Islam played a major role in legitimizing 
Qadhafi 's political and social reforms. By the end of the decade, 
however, he had begun to attack the religious establishment and 
several fundamental aspects of Sunni Islam. Qadhafi asserted that 
the Quran should be the sole guide to Islamic governance, and he 
believed in the ability of every Muslim to read and interpret it. 
He denigrated the roles of the ulama (see Glossary), imams, and 
Islamic jurists and questioned the authenticity of the hadith, and 
thereby the sunna, as a basis for Islamic law. The sharia itself, 
Qadhafi maintained, governed only such matters as properly fell 
within the sphere of religion; all other matters lay outside the pur- 
view of religious law. Finally, he called for a revision of the Muslim 
calendar, saying it should date from the Prophet's death in 632, 
an event he felt was more momentous than the hijra ten years 

These unorthodox views on the hadith, sharia, and the Islamic 
era aroused a good deal of unease. They seemed to originate from 
Qadhafi 's conviction that he possessed the transcendent ability to 
interpret the Quran and to adapt its message to modern life. 
Equally, they reinforced the view that he was a reformer but not 
a literalist in matters of the Quran and Islamic tradition. On a prac- 
tical level, however, several observers agreed that Qadhafi was less 


Libya: A Country Study 

motivated by religious convictions than by political calculations. 
By espousing these views and by criticizing the ulama, he was using 
religion to undermine a segment of the middle class that was nota- 
bly vocal in opposing his economic policies in the late 1970s. But 
Qadhafi clearly considered himself an authority on the Quran and 
Islam and was not afraid to challenge traditional religious authority. 
He also was not prepared to tolerate dissent. 

The Revolutionary government gave repeated evidence of its 
desire to establish Libya as a leader of the Islamic world. Moreover, 
Qadhafi' s efforts to create an Arab nation through political union 
with other Arab states were also based on a desire to create a great 
Islamic nation. Indeed, Qadhafi drew little distinction between the 

The government took a leading role in supporting Islamic insti- 
tutions and in worldwide proselytizing on behalf of Islam. The Jihad 
Fund, supported by a payroll tax, was established in 1970 to aid 
the Palestinians in their struggle with Israel. The Faculty of Islamic 
Studies and Arabic at the University of Benghazi was charged with 
training Muslim intellectual leaders for the entire Islamic world, 
and the Islamic Mission Society used public funds for the construc- 
tion and repair of mosques and Islamic educational centers in cities 
as widely separated as Vienna and Bangkok. The Islamic Call Soci- 
ety (Ad Dawah) was organized with government support to 
propagate Islam abroad, particularly throughout Africa, and to pro- 
vide funds to Muslims everywhere. 

Qadhafi has been forthright in his belief in the perfection of Islam 
and his desire to propagate it. His commitment to the open propa- 
gation of Islam, among other reasons, has caused him to oppose 
the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-based fundamentalist move- 
ment that has used clandestine and sometimes subversive means 
to spread Islam and to eliminate Western influences. Although the 
brotherhood's activities in Libya were banned in the mid-1980s, 
it was present in the country but maintained a low profile (see 
Religious Opposition, ch. 4). In 1983 a member of the brother- 
hood was executed in Tripoli, and in 1986 a group of brotherhood 
adherents was arrested after the murder of a high-ranking politi- 
cal official in Benghazi. Qadhafi has challenged the brotherhood 
to establish itself openly in non-Muslim countries and has promised 
its leaders that, if it does, he will support its activities. 

Qadhafi has stressed the universal applicability of Islam, but 
he has also reaffirmed the special status assigned by the Prophet 
to Christians. He has, however, likened them to misguided Mus- 
lims who have strayed from the correct path. Furthermore, he has 
assumed leadership of a drive to free Africa of Christianity as well 
as of the colonialism with which it has been associated. 


A health care center in Benghazi 
Courtesy United Nations 

Health and Welfare 
Social Welfare 

A government advertisement appearing in an international pub- 
lication in 1977 asserted that the Libyan social security legislation 
of 1973 ranked among the most comprehensive in the world and 
that it protected all citizens from many hazards associated with em- 
ployment. The social security program instituted in 1957 had al- 
ready provided protection superior to that available in many or 
most developing countries, and in the 1980s the welfare available 
to Libyans included much more than was provided under the so- 
cial security law: work injury and sickness compensation and dis- 
ability, retirement, and survivors' pensions. Workers employed by 
foreign firms were entitled to the same social security benefits as 
workers employed by Libyan citizens. 

Subsidized food, inexpensive housing, free medical care and edu- 
cation, and profit-sharing were among the benefits that eased the 
lives of all citizens. The government protected the employed in their 
jobs and subsidized the underemployed and unemployed. In addi- 
tion, there were nurseries to care for the children of working 
mothers, orphanages for homeless children, and homes for the aged. 
The welfare programs had reached even the oasis towns of the 
desert, where they reportedly were received with considerable 


Libya: A Country Study 

satisfaction. The giving of alms to the poor remained one of the 
pillars of the Islamic faith, but the extent of public welfare was such 
that there was increasingly less place for private welfare. Nonethe- 
less, the traditional Arab sense of family responsibility remained 
strong, and provision for needy relatives was still a common 

Medical Care 

The number of physicians and surgeons in practice increased 
fivefold between 1965 and 1974, and large increases were registered 
in the number of dentists, medical, and paramedical personnel. 
Further expansion and improvement followed over the next de- 
cade in response to large budgetary outlays, as the Revolutionary 
regime continued to use its oil income to improve the health and 
welfare of all Libyans. The number of doctors and dentists increased 
from 783 in 1970 to 5,450 in 1985, producing in the case of doc- 
tors a ratio of 1 per 673 citizens. These doctors were attached to 
a comprehensive network of health care facilities that dispensed 
free medical care. The number of hospital beds increased from 7,500 
in 1970 to almost 20,000 by 1985, an improvement from 3.5 beds 
to 5.3 beds per 1,000 citizens. During the same years, substantial 
increases were also registered in the number of clinics and health 
care centers. 

A large proportion of medical and paramedical personnel were 
foreigners brought in under contract from other Arab countries 
and from Eastern Europe. The major efforts to "Libyanize" health 
care professionals, however, were beginning to show results in the 
mid-1980s. Libyan sources claimed that approximately 33 percent 
of all doctors were nationals in 1985, as compared with only about 
6 percent a decade earlier. In the field of nursing staff and techni- 
cians, the situation was considerably better — about 80 percent were 
Libyan. Schools of nursing had been in existence since the early 
1960s, and the faculties of medicine in the universities at Tripoli 
and Benghazi included specialized institutes for nurses and tech- 
nicians. The first medical school was not established until 1970, 
and there was no school of dentistry until 1974. By 1978 a total 
of nearly 500 students was enrolled in medical studies at schools 
in Benghazi and Tripoli, and the dental school in Benghazi had 
graduated its first class of 23 students. In addition, some students 
were pursuing graduate medical studies abroad, but in the immedi- 
ate future Libya was expected to continue to rely heavily on ex- 
patriate medical personnel. 

Among the major health hazards endemic in the country 
in the 1970s were typhoid and paratyphoid, infectious hepatitis, 


The Society and Its Environment 

leishmaniasis, rabies, meningitis, schistosomiasis, and venereal dis- 
eases. Also reported as having high incidence were various child- 
hood diseases, such as whooping cough, mumps, measles, and 
chicken pox. Cholera occurred intermittendy and, although malaria 
was regarded as having been eliminated in the 1960s, malaria sup- 
pressants were often recommended for use in desert oasis areas. 

By the early 1980s, it was claimed that most or all of these dis- 
eases were under control. A high rate of trachoma formerly left 
10 percent or more of the population blinded or with critically 
impaired vision, but by the late 1970s the disease appeared to have 
been brought under control. The incidence of new cases of tuber- 
culosis was reduced by nearly half between 1969 and 1976, and 
twenty-two new centers for tuberculosis care were constructed 
between 1970 and 1985. By the early 1980s, two rehabilitation 
centers for the handicapped had been built, one each in Benghazi 
and Tripoli. These offered both medical and job- training services 
and complemented the range of health care services available in 
the country. 

The streets of Tripoli and Benghazi were kept scrupulously clean, 
and drinking water in these cities was of good quality. The govern- 
ment had made significant efforts to provide safe water. In sum- 
ming up accomplishments since 1970, officials listed almost 1,500 
wells drilled and more than 900 reservoirs in service in 1985, in 
addition to 9,000 kilometers of potable water networks and 44 desali- 
nation plants. Sewage disposal had also received considerable 
attention, twenty-eight treatment plants having been built. 


Housing was one of the major concerns of the Revolutionary 
government from the beginning, and the provision of adequate 
housing for all Libyans by the 1980s remained a top priority. The 
former regime had undertaken to build 100,000 units to relieve 
a critical housing shortage, but this project had proved an expen- 
sive fiasco and was abandoned after 1969. A survey at the time 
of the Revolution found that 150,000 families lacked decent shelter, 
the actual housing shortfall being placed at upward of 180,000 

Both the public and private sectors were involved in housing con- 
struction during the 1970s. Private investment and contracting 
accounted for a large portion of all construction until new property 
ownership laws went into effect in 1978 that limited each family 
to only one dwelling. Despite the decline of privately financed 
undertakings, the housing sector constituted one of the most nota- 
ble of the Revolution's achievements. By the late 1970s, the 


Libya: A Country Study 

hovels and tenements surrounding Benghazi and Tripoli had begun 
to give way to modern apartment blocks with electricity and run- 
ning water that stretched ever farther into what had once been 
groves and fields. These high-rise apartments became characteris- 
tic of the skylines of contemporary Benghazi, Tripoli, and other 
urban areas. 

Between 1970 and 1986, the government invested some LD2.8 
million (for value of the Libyan dinar (LD — see Glossary) in hous- 
ing, which made possible the construction of 277,500 housing units, 
according to official sources. To reach these targets, the regime 
drew not only upon Libyan resources but also enlisted firms from 
France, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Spain, 
Italy, Turkey, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and Cuba. 
Since 1984, budget allocations for housing have fallen in keeping 
with a general decline in government spending. Many housing con- 
tracts have been suspended or canceled as a result, causing finan- 
cial difficulties for foreign firms. A shortfall in new construction 
also raised the prospect of overcrowding and the creation of new 
shanty towns as the country's burgeoning population threatened to 
overwhelm the supply of housing. 


Under the monarchy, all Libyans were guaranteed the right to 
education. Primary and secondary schools were established all over 
the country, and old Quranic schools that had been closed during 
the struggle for independence were reactivated and new ones estab- 
lished, lending a heavy religious cast to Libyan education. The 
educational program suffered from a limited curriculum, a lack 
of qualified teachers — especially Libyan — and a tendency to learn 
by rote rather than by reasoning, a characteristic of Arab educa- 
tion in general. School enrollments rose rapidly, particularly on 
the primary level; vocational education was introduced; and the 
first Libyan university was established in Benghazi in 1955. Also 
under the monarchy, women began to receive formal education 
in increasing numbers, rural and beduin children were brought 
into the educational system for the first time, and an adult educa- 
tion program was established. 

Total school enrollment rose from 34,000 on the eve of indepen- 
dence in 1951, to nearly 150,000 in 1962, to about 360,000 at the 
time of the 1969 Revolution. During the 1970s, the training of 
teachers was stressed in an effort to replace the Egyptian and other 
expatriate personnel who made up the majority of the teaching 
corps. Prefabricated school buildings were erected, and mobile class- 
rooms and classes held in tents became features of the desert oases. 


Modern housing built on 
the outskirts of Tripoli 

In 1986 official sources placed total enrollments at more than 
1,245,000 students, of whom 670,000 (54 percent) were males and 
575,000 (46 percent) were females (see table 2, Appendix ). These 
figures meant that one-third of the population was enrolled in some 
form of educational endeavor. For the 1970-86 period, the govern- 
ment claimed nearly 32,000 primary, secondary, and vocational 
classrooms had been constructed, while the number of teachers rose 
from nearly 19,000 to 79,000 (see table 3, Appendix). The added 
space and increased number of new teachers greatly improved 
student- teacher ratios at preprimary and primary levels; rising en- 
rollments in general secondary and technical education, however, 
increased the density of students per classroom at those levels. 

At independence, the overall literacy rate among Libyans over 
the age of ten did not exceed 20 percent. By 1977, with expanding 
school opportunities, the rate had risen to 51 percent overall, or 
73 percent for males and 31 percent for females. Relatively low 
though it was, the rate for females had soared from the scanty 6 
percent registered as recently as 1964. In the early 1980s, only 
estimates of literacy were available — about 70 percent for men and 
perhaps 35 percent for women. 

In 1987 education was free at all levels, and university students 
received substantial stipends. Attendance was compulsory between 
the ages of six and fifteen years or until completion of the prepara- 
tory cycle of secondary school. The administrative or current 


Libya: A Country Study 

expenses budget for 1985 allocated 7.5 percent of the national 
budget (LD90.4 million) to education through university level. 
Allocations for 1983 and 1984 were slightly less — about LD85 
million — just under 6 percent of total administrative outlays. 

From its inception, the Revolutionary regime placed great em- 
phasis on education, continuing and expanding programs begun 
under the monarchy. By the 1980s, the regime had made great 
strides, but much remained to be done. The country still suffered 
from a lack of qualified Libyan teachers, female attendance at the 
secondary level and above was low, and attempts in the late 1970s 
to close private schools and to integrate religious and secular 
instruction had led to confusion. Perhaps most important were lag- 
ging enrollments in vocational and technical training. As recently 
as 1977, fewer than 5,000 students were enrolled in 12 technical 
high schools. Although unofficial estimates placed technical enroll- 
ments at nearly 17,000 by 1981, most doctors, dentists, and phar- 
macists in the early 1980s still came from abroad. Young Libyans 
continued to shun technical training, preferring white collar em- 
ployment because it was associated with social respect and high 
status. As a consequence, there seemed to be no immediate prospect 
for reducing the heavy reliance on expatriate workers to meet the 
economy's increasing need for technical skills. 

A major source of disruption was the issue of compulsory mili- 
tary training for both male and female students. Beginning in 1981 , 
weapons training formed part of the curriculum of secondary schools 
and universities, part of a general military mobilization process 
(see Conscription and the People's Militia, ch. 5). Both male and 
female secondary students wore uniforms to classes and attended 
daily military exercises; university students did not wear uniforms 
but were required to attend training camps. In addition, girls were 
officially encouraged to attend female military academies. These 
measures were by no means popular, especially as they related to 
females, but in the mid-1980s it was too soon to assess their im- 
pact on female school attendance and on general educational 

Primary and Secondary Education 

In 1987 the school program consisted of six years of primary 
school, three years of preparatory school (junior high), and three 
years of secondary (high) school. A five-year primary teaching pro- 
gram could be elected upon completion of primary school. A tech- 
nical high-school program (including industrial subjects or com- 
merce and agriculture) and two-year and four-year programs for 
the training of primary- school teachers were among the offerings 


The Society and Its Environment 

at the secondary level (see fig. 6). In the mid-1970s, nearly one- 
half of the primary, preparatory, and secondary enrollments were 
in Tripoli and Benghazi, but by the late 1980s schools were well 
distributed around the country, and boarding facilities for students 
from remote areas were available at some schools at all academic 

The enrollment of girls in primary schools increased from 34 
percent of the total in 1970 to nearly 47 percent in 1979. During 
the same period, female enrollment in secondary schools was up 
from 13 percent to 23 percent, and in vocational schools from 23 
percent to 56 percent of total enrollment. However, the number 
of girls attending school in some rural areas was well below the 
national average, and a high female dropout rate suggested that 
many parents sent their daughters to school only long enough to 
acquire basic skills to make them attractive marriage partners. Dur- 
ing the early 1980s, a variety of courses was taught in primary and 
secondary classes. English was introduced in the fifth primary grade 
and continued thereafter. Islamic studies and Arabic were offered 
at all levels of the curriculum, and several hours of classes each 
week were reportedly devoted to Qadhafi's The Green Book. 

Higher Education 

The University of Libya was founded in Benghazi in 1955, with 
a branch in Tripoli. In 1973 the two campuses became the univer- 
sities of Benghazi and Tripoli, respectively, and in 1976 they were 
renamed Gar Yunis University and Al Fatah University, respec- 
tively. In 1981 a technical university specializing in engineering 
and petroleum opened at Marsa al Burayqah. Enrollments were 
projected at 1,700 students. In addition, there were technical 
institutes at Birak, Hun, and Bani Walid. By the early 1980s, 
schools of nuclear and electronic engineering and of pharmacy had 
been established at Al Fatah University, while plans called for the 
construction of an agricultural school at Al Bayda for 1,500 students. 

Expansion of facilities for higher education was critical to meet- 
ing skilled personnel requirements. Technical education was being 
emphasized in keeping with a trend toward more specialized facil- 
ities for both secondary and university studies. In 1982 the GPC 
passed a resolution calling for the replacement of secondary schools 
by specialized training institutes whose curricula would be closely 
integrated with those of the universities and technical institutes. 
In 1985 the GPC called for a further expansion of vocational and 
professional training centers and for measures to compel tech- 
nically trained students to work in their fields of specialization. 
Students were also expected to play a more active role in the 


Libya: A Country Study 



AGE 6 

9 10 11 

12 13 14 15 15 16 17 1! 

nun nil in 
















AGE 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 15 16 17 18 

Figure 6. School System, 1987 

economy as the country attempted to overcome the shortage of 
skilled manpower caused by the expulsion of foreign workers in 
1985 (see Population, this ch.). In view of declining allocations for 
education in the mid-1980s, however, it was doubtful if these and 
other goals would be met. 

University enrollment figures for the 1980s were unavailable in 
1987. However, they had risen without interruption since the 1950s, 
and it seemed probable that this trend was continuing. About 3,000 
students were enrolled in the University of Libya in 1969. By 1975 
the figure was up to 12,000, and a 1980 total of 25,000 was pro- 
jected. Female enrollments rose dramatically during this period, 
from 9 percent of total enrollments in the 1970-71 period, to 20 
percent in the 1978-79 period, to 24 percent in the early 1980s. 

In the 1970s, many students went abroad for university and 
graduate training; in 1978 about 3,000 were studying in the United 
States alone. In the early 1980s, however, the government was no 
longer willing to grant fellowships for study abroad, preferring to 
educate young Libyans at home for economic and political rea- 
sons. In 1985 Libyan students in Western countries were recalled 
and their study grants terminated. Although precise information 
was lacking, many students were reportedly reluctant to interrupt 
their programs and return home. 


The Society and Its Environment 

University students were restless and vocal but also somewhat 
lacking in application and motivation. They played an active role 
in university affairs through student committees, which debated 
a wide range of administrative and educational matters and which 
themselves became arenas for confrontation between radical and 
moderate factions. University students were also among the few 
groups to express open dissatisfaction with the Qadhafi govern- 
ment (see Student Opposition, ch. 4). One major source of ten- 
sion arose from the regime's constant intervention to control and 
politicize education on all levels, whereas most Libyans regarded 
education as the path to personal and social advancement, best left 
free of government meddling. 

In 1976 students mounted violent protests in Benghazi and 
Tripoli over compulsory military training. More recently, in March 
1986 students of the faculties of English and French at Al Fatah 
University successfully thwarted Qadhafi 's attempt to close their 
departments and to destroy their libraries, part of the Arabization 
campaign and another of Qadhafi 's steps to eliminate Western in- 
fluence. A compromise was worked out whereby the departmen- 
tal libraries were spared, but both foreign languages were gradually 
to be phased out of university curricula. After this incident, Qadhafi 
announced that Russian would be substituted for English in Libyan 
schools, a policy which, if implemented, was certain to cause both 
practical and political difficulties. 

* * * 

Despite the attention Libya has received in the press and the 
appearance of a few major works within the last decade, the litera- 
ture on Libyan society is relatively thin and uneven. The best and 
most comprehensive general introduction is also the newest — Lillian 
Craig Harris's Libya: Qadhafi 's Revolution and the Modern State. Her 
primary focus is political and economic, but Harris also discusses 
the people, the social achievements of the Revolutionary govern- 
ment, and social disaffection. Richard Parker's North Africa: Con- 
temporary Politics and Economic Development, gives another overview 
of Libya in the early 1980s, although he, too, is primarily concerned 
with politics and foreign affairs rather than with domestic affairs. 
John Wright's Libya: A Modern History, provides extensive cover- 
age of the independence period, being particularly valuable on social 
change during the 1970s. 

There is a general dearth of current reliable social statistics for 
the 1980s, in contrast with the 1970s. The available data is often 
a decade or more old and in some cases is missing altogether. The 


Libya: A Country Study 

best available sources outside the country are the various publica- 
tions of the United Nations and the World Bank. Much useful and 
usually more current data can be found in the quarterly economic 
reviews published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (London). 

The situation is considerably better with respect to analyses of 
social structure and values. Omar El Fathaly and Monte Palmer's 
Political Development and Social Change in Libya and "Opposition to 
Change in Rural Libya" are concerned with the evolution of social 
structure since independence. Basing their conclusions on field sur- 
veys, these researchers document the resilience of traditional values 
in shaping contemporary Libyan society, especially its elite struc- 
ture. In "Libya: Personalistic Leadership of a Populist Revolu- 
tion," Raymond Hinnebusch dissects the Revolutionary-era elite 
in a scholarly treatment that also shows how the ideals of the Revo- 
lution have affected elite formation. A series of essays covering 
almost all aspects of society , in some cases since the nineteenth cen- 
tury, comes from Marius and Mary Jane Deeb, Libya Since the Revo- 
lution. Like El Fathaly and Palmer, the Deebs write on the basis 
of first-hand experience, but unfortunately their data are largely 
drawn from the early and mid-1970s. Mustafa Attir's "Ideology, 
Value Changes, and Women's Social Position in Libyan Society," 
examines attitudes toward women and traces the evolution of fe- 
male rights and status over the last four decades. Ann Elizabeth 
Mayer's "Islamic Resurgence or New Prophethood," details the 
legal and theological reasoning and posturing that lie behind 
Qadhafi's view of Islam and his challenge to the religious estab- 
lishment. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibli- 


Chapter 3. The Economy 

An oil rig in the Libyan desert 

THE LIBYAN ECONOMY is unique in North Africa. Whereas 
Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia all have large populations, 
considerable agricultural potential, and well-established industrial 
bases, Libya possesses few of these advantages. It does, however, 
have abundant energy resources — primarily an attractive type of 
light low-sulfur crude oil as well as some natural gas. Given the 
country's small population (3.6 million in 1984) and considerable 
petroleum-derived income, the Libyan economy has more in com- 
mon with those of the small oil-exporting Persian Gulf states than 
with those of its North African neighbors. 

Because of Libya's great dependence on oil revenues, the general 
level of the Libyan economy is closely related to the health of the 
petrochemical industry. Despite massive investment in agriculture 
and nonpetroleum-related industry, the percentage of Libya's gross 
domestic product (GDP — see Glossary) derived from oil has re- 
mained fairly constant since the early 1970s, fluctuating between 
50 and 60 percent until 1982, when declining oil revenues caused 
it to drop below 50 percent. Since Muammar al Qadhafi and his 
associates came to power in 1969, reducing Libya's dependence 
on oil has been the government's major economic policy objective. 
Its inability to achieve this goal stems from ill-advised policy deci- 
sions as well as the many obstacles to economic diversification in 
a land lacking in both basic infrastructure and water resources. 

Diversification is an important issue because at current rates of 
production, Libyan oil reserves are not expected to last beyond the 
second decade of che next century. Thus, the long-term health of 
the Libyan economy hinges on developing a self-sustaining non- 
petroleum sector. Otherwise, once oil reserves are depleted, Libya 
will become as poor as it was before its current oil boom. 

Libya's postindependence economic progress can be divided into 
four periods. The first period began with Libya's gaining of inde- 
pendence in 1951 , included the discovery of oil in 1957, and ended 
in 1961. The second period dates from 1961, when oil exports 
moved the country into the forefront of the world's economies. The 
September 1, 1969, military coup d'etat marked the beginninng 
of the third period, a period that saw Libya change from a Western- 
oriented capitalist country into a strongly nationalist, anti-Western, 
socialist state. This period also witnessed the government's grow- 
ing intervention in the economy, which was largely financed by 
the booming oil revenues of the 1970s. Falling world oil prices in 


Libya: A Country Study 

the early 1980s ushered in the fourth phase of Libya's economic 
development. The falling prices have dramatically reduced govern- 
ment revenue and caused a serious decline in economic activity. 

The economic change between independence and the 1980s was 
dramatic. In 1951, on the eve of independence, Libya, underdevel- 
oped and backward, was characterized by the United Nations (UN) 
as perhaps the world's poorest country. Experts predicted that the 
country would have to be supported for years by international 
grants-in-aid while it organized itself to try to live within its own 
meager means. However, in less than 25 years, Libya had turned 
into a rapidly developing country with accumulated net gold and 
foreign-exchange reserves equivalent to upward of US$4 billion 
and an estimated annual income from oil revenues of between US$6 
and US$8 billion. Although Libya suffered few balance-of-payments 
problems, it was beginning to be bothered by inflation. The coun- 
try seemed to have adequate funds at its disposal, however. 

Growth and Structure of the Economy 

At the time of independence, the Libyan economy was based 
mainly on agriculture, which was divided more or less evenly be- 
tween field (including tree) crops and livestock products. Agricul- 
ture provided raw materials for much of the country's industrial 
sector, exports, and trade; employed more than 70 percent of the 
labor force; and contributed about 30 percent of the GDP, depen- 
dent on climatic conditions. 

For the most part, agricultural resources were limited to two com- 
paratively narrow stretches along the Mediterranean Sea and a few 
desert oases. The cropland had been maltreated, and the pasture 
had been overgrazed. Erosion was common, production methods 
were primitive, and close to a quarter of the agricultural area was 
held on a tribal basis and was being used inefficiently. Rainfall was 
unpredictable, except that usually it was scarce and ill-timed. When 
the rains did come, however, they were likely to be excessive. 
Groundwater was in short supply in the agricultural areas. In some 
locations it had been so excessively drawn upon that it had become 
brackish or saline and was no longer suitable even for agriculture. 
Because the country has no perennial rivers, there was only lim- 
ited potential for irrigation and even less for hydroelectric power. 
At the time of independence, the apparently abundant subterra- 
nean water supplies located in the Lower Sahara had not yet been 
discovered. Even if officials had known about the water, its presence, 
while encouraging, would not have been very helpful in the short 
term because of lack of development funds and inadequate trans- 
port and storage facilities. In 1986, although agriculture contributed 


The Economy 

a very small share to the GDP, it still provided employment oppor- 
tunities for a large portion of the population and was therefore still 
important (see table 4, Appendix). Shortage of water was the main 
drawback to expansion of cultivable land, but reclamation and irri- 
gation schemes and the introduction of modern farming techniques 
held promise for the future. 

At the time of independence, Libya possessed few minerals in 
quantities sufficient for commercial use, although iron ore was sub- 
sequently found in the Wadi ash Shati in the south-central part 
of the country. In turn, because of the absence of coal and hydro- 
electric power, the country had little energy potential. In the modern 
sense, Libya had practically no industry and, given the limitations 
of the agricultural sector, could produce few exports to be exchanged 
for the import commodities the country needed. 

At independence, illiteracy was widespread, the level of skills 
was low, and technical and management expertise and organiza- 
tion were at a premium. (The lack of sufficient numbers of skilled 
Libyans in the labor force remained a problem in the 1980s; despite 
large sums of money having been spent on training Libyans, the 
government still relied on foreign workers.) A large part of the na- 
tional life was lived under nomadic or seminomadic, rather than 
settled, conditions. The high birthrate added to the country's pov- 
erty. The rapid population increase strained the agricultural econ- 
omy and resulted in the drift of excess unskilled laborers to urban 
centers, but these centers, too, lacked sufficient adequately paid 

In terms of resources, including human resources, the outlook 
at independence was bleak. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, 
international and other foreign agencies — mainly the United States 
and Italy — continued to finance the gap between Libya's needs and 
its domestic resources. The foreign community was not in a posi- 
tion, however, to undertake an across-the-board and sustained 
development program to set the economy on a course of immedi- 
ate self-sufficiency. During much of the 1950s, the country's admin- 
istrative apparatus was unable even to utilize all the resources made 
available from abroad. 

During the decade after the discovery of petroleum, Libya be- 
came a classic example of a dual economy, in which two separate 
economies (petroleum and nonpetroleum) operated side by side. 
For practical purposes, no connection existed between them except 
that the petroleum companies employed limited quantities of 
local labor and paid a portion of their profits to the government 
in royalties and taxes. The financing and decisions affecting the 
activities of the petroleum economy came not from the domestic 


Libya: A Country Study 

nonpetroleum economy but rather from outside the country. 
Although this sharp dichotomy was in the process of relaxation after 
1965 — perhaps especially after 1967 — it appears not to have been 
attacked conceptually, at least not with fervor, until after the 1969 
change of government. 

The laissez-faire arrangement came to an end with the military 
coup d'etat of September 1, 1969. The previous government's per- 
sonnel and much of its administrative framework were scrapped, 
and the oil companies were put on notice that they were overdue 
on large payments for unpaid taxes and royalties. In other respects 
affecting the economy, the new government marked time, except 
for its policy of "Libyanization" — the process of replacing for- 
eigners and foreign-owned firms in trade, government, and related 
activities with Libyan citizens and firms. In mid- 1970, the govern- 
ment embarked on a program of progressive nationalization. 

In addition to establishing at least a temporary veto power over 
the activities of the oil companies, the nationalization program 
included sequestration of all Italian assets, socialization (state owner- 
ship) of the banking and insurance system, Libyanization of all 
forms of trade, and steady substitution of Libyans for foreign 
administrative and management personnel in resident foreign 
concerns — another aspect of Libyanization. In the petroleum sec- 
tor, the government put a constantly increasing financial bite on 
the companies. By the end of 1974, the government either had 
nationalized companies or had become a participant in their con- 
cessions and their production and transportation facilities. The 
regime thus had a larger share of the profits than under the previ- 
ous royalty and tax arrangements. However, despite varying 
degrees of nationalization of foreign oil firms, in 1987 Libya was 
still highly dependent on foreign companies for the expertise needed 
in exploitation, marketing, and management of the oil fields and 
installations that remained the primary basis of the country's eco- 
nomic activity. 

After 1972 the government began supplementing its policy of 
nationalization with an ambitious plan to modernize the economy, 
modeled largely on neighboring Algeria's experience. The key com- 
ponent of this plan was an intensive effort to build industrial 
capacity, placing a special emphasis on petroleum-related indus- 
try. The industrialization program had two major goals: the diver- 
sification of income sources and import substitution. In this latter 
respect, the plan met with some success, as several categories of 
imports began to decline in the late 1970s. 

In 1981 , when oil prices started to fall and the worldwide oil mar- 
ket entered a period of glut, the present phase of independent 


The Economy 

Libya's economic history began. The decline in oil prices has had 
a tremendous effect on the Libyan economy. By 1985 Libyan oil 
revenues had fallen to their lowest level since the first Organiza- 
tion of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) price shock in 1973. 
This fall in oil revenues, which constituted over 57 percent of the 
total GDP in 1980 and from which, in some years, the govern- 
ment had derived over 80 percent of its revenue, caused a sharp 
contraction in the Libyan economy. Real GDP fell by over 14 per- 
cent between 1980 and 1981 and was continuing to decline in late 
1986. The negative trend in real GDP growth was not expected 
to reverse itself soon. 

The decline in real GDP placed great strain on government 
spending, reduced the level of imported goods available in Libyan 
markets, and increased Libya's debt repayment problems — all of 
which combined to lower living standards. The decline in oil reve- 
nues also caused the Libyan government to revise its somewhat 
haphazard way of making economic policy decisions, because it 
no longer possessed the financial resources to achieve its many goals. 
Thus, during the early and mid-1980s, development projects were 
subjected to a more rigorous cost and benefit analysis than during 
the easy money time of the 1970s. As of 1987, however, it was too 
early to judge the effectiveness of the government's response to fall- 
ing oil revenues. 

Role of the Government 

Mainly because of Libya's strategic role in World War II, the 
Libyan government had come to depend on foreign patrons for 
its financial needs. During the Italian occupation and in the im- 
mediate postwar period, first Italian and then United States and 
British grants kept the Libyan administration solvent. After 1956 
the need for direct foreign subsidies declined as the international 
oil companies began to invest heavily in Libya — causing substan- 
tial capital inflows. During the 1960s, the investments of the previ- 
ous decade began to pay off, and the country experienced the fruits 
of rising oil wealth. This trend not only reduced the government's 
need for foreign assistance, but also generated a huge increase in 
taxable domestic income. However, Libyan physical and human 
resource development continued to lag, necessitating sustained reli- 
ance on foreign technical assistance. This pattern of dependence 
on foreigners to perform crucial skilled functions, which subsequent 
governments have been unable to eliminate, has made Libyans 
acutely aware of their subordinate status in the world economy in 
relation to the industrialized West. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Consequently, the Qadhafi government has assigned high pri- 
ority to the achievement of what it perceives as "true economic 
independence." This theme has been one of Qadhafi 's staple argu- 
ments and underlies much of the post- 1969 Revolutionary govern- 
ment's economic policies. Qadhafi's other principal economic 
objective has been to promote equity, which he equates with so- 
cialism. Because of Qadhafi's unique conception of the character 
of the state, his distrust of the private sector, and his abhorrence 
of the profit motive, he has maintained that it is only through mas- 
sive state intervention that economic independence and equity can 
be attained. Thus, the state has taken control of virtually all eco- 
nomic domains since Qadhafi came to power. 

Soon after the revolution, a major Libyanization drive was ini- 
tiated, which involved the expulsion of the remaining Jewish and 
Italian communities and the nationalization of the country's banks, 
insurance, and petroleum-marketing companies. Other measures 
were enacted to restrict the activities of foreigners in commerce 
and industry. 

Throughout the 1970s, the government expanded its role to take 
control of Libya's economic resources. The public Libyan Petrole- 
um Company (LIPETCO) was supplanted in 1970 by the National 
Oil Company (NOC), which became responsible for implement- 
ing policies decided upon in the Ministry of Petroleum before the 
latter was dissolved in March 1986. Similarly, the government exer- 
cised effective control over water rights and created a large num- 
ber of state-owned enterprises to oversee Libya's basic infrastructural 
facilities, such as highways, communications, ports, airports, and 
electric power stations. Public corporations were also created to 
run the state airline and to import certain restricted goods. The 
public import company, the National Organization for Supply 
Commodities (NOSC), was given a monopoly over the import and 
sale of many basic consumer items. In 1975 the government became 
the sole importer and retailer of motor vehicles. The domestic mar- 
keting of certain commodities and the provision of certain services 
were restricted to the public sector. By 1977 these included con- 
struction materials, livestock, fertilizers, fish fodder, insecticides, 
insurance, banking, advertising, and publishing. 

Since the late 1970s, the Libyan government has accelerated its 
assault on the private sector in a determined attempt to stamp out 
what it identified as bourgeois exploitation. This renewed effort 
followed the codification of Qadhafi's economic theories in the sec- 
ond volume of his The Green Book, published in 1978 (see The Green 
Book, ch. 4). Many of the regime's most radical economic policies 
began soon after that date. The first concrete manifestation of 


The Economy 

Qadhafi' s new economic militancy occurred in 1978, when he out- 
lawed rental payments for property, changing all residential tenants 
into instant owners. The private sector housing and real estate 
industry was thus eliminated, and the new owners were required 
to pay monthly "mortgage" payments — usually amounting to 
about one-third of their former rent — directly to the government; 
however, families making less than the equivalent of US$500 a 
month were exempted from this obligation. 

Qadhafi initiated another major innovation in 1978 when, dur- 
ing a speech, he urged workers in both the public and private sec- 
tors to take control of the enterprises in which they worked by 
following his dictum: "partners, not wage earners. " This new idea 
went much further than an earlier law in 1973, which had merely 
instituted mandatory profit-sharing. Now workers were urged to 
involve themselves in the day-to-day management of the enterprises 
in which they worked. Within 3 months of this speech, workers 
in 180 enterprises had formed "workers' committees" which, in 
principle at least, ran these concerns. 

The most ambitious of the 1978 measures, however, was the 
attempt to do away with all private commerce, retail as well as 
wholesale. In that year, the responsibilities of the NOSC were con- 
siderably enlarged because the state took over responsibility for the 
importation of all goods and control over all foreign exchange trans- 
actions. In theory, all private commercial transactions became illegal 
as the state began to open centralized supermarkets run by local 
people's committees with the aim of undermining the numerous 
neighborhood shops that previously had catered to the daily needs 
of most Libyans. Eventually, there were 230 such state-run super- 
markets in various parts of the country. Although no one expected 
such a small number of stores to replace fully the thousands of pri- 
vate sector merchants, state planners hoped that the stores would 
constitute enough of a market presence in each location to exert 
a downward pressure on private sector prices for competing goods. 

The hostility of Qadhafi toward the private sector was based on 
his view of merchants as nonproductive parasites; he ignored their 
role as distributors. In fact, many state proclamations explicitly 
stated that government policy was designed to do away with the 
whole merchant class. One newspaper editorial emphasized that 
"One of the goals of these consumer centers is to cut down on the 
huge number of merchants who are a burden on productivity." 
The only type of private sector enterprises that the government 
did not actively seek to eliminate were small service-providing firms, 
which were not viewed as inherently exploitative. 


Libya: A Country Study 

By 1980 it was clear that Qadhafi 's assault on the private sector 
was not proceeding as fast as he had hoped. Even in a time of rela- 
tive wealth — oil revenues were nearing their peak and the state had 
enough revenue to fix the prices of certain goods — the public sec- 
tor was unable to satisfy demand for many consumer items. The 
unsatisfied demand left room for private sector activity at various 
levels of legality. Continuing his attack on the private sector from 
another angle, in 1980 Qadhafi demonetized all currency notes 
above one dinar (for value of the Libyan dinar, LD, see Glossary). 
His action was designed to encourage those holding large quanti- 
ties of dinars to deposit them in the nationalized banks — thus in- 
creasing state control over private sector assets. Many individuals 
with large cash holdings were reluctant to deposit their savings, 
however, since withdrawals in excess of LD1,000 were prohibited. 
They also feared that large deposits could be used against them 
as evidence of their having engaged in illegal commercial transac- 
tions. The main result of the 1980 demonetization, therefore, was 
a rise in conspicuous consumption, as individuals sought to trans- 
fer their savings into material goods, and an increased demand for 
black market foreign exchange, as persons sought ways to export 
their dinars. 

Most of the post- 197 7 economic policy innovations of the Qadhafi 
government were designed to inhibit the private accumulation of 
wealth and promote an equitable distribution of the national 
income. The principal vehicles for fostering economic independence 
in this period have been two five-year plans (1976-80 and 1981-85), 
which were aimed at directing investment to areas that would con- 
tribute to economic autonomy (see table 5, Appendix). In the 
1976-80 plan, agriculture and industry received the largest share 
of investment, whereas the 1981-85 plan allocated more funds to 
industry and public works, with agriculture coming in third. 

Most of the planned agricultural investment has been directed 
to the development of oasis agriculture and irrigation. Ambitious 
schemes were launched during the 1970s to use the underground 
fossil water resources of the Tazirbu, Sarir, and Al Kufrah oases 
to grow wheat and animal fodder crops (see fig. 4). Similarly, work 
has begun on the Great Man-Made River (GMMR) scheme to 
tap desert aquifers to bring water to the coastal agricultural areas 
where shrinking aquifers and rising salinity threaten to lay waste 
to historically productive agricultural lands. 

Industrial investment has been concentrated on several large- 
scale projects at industrial centers along the coast. Existing in- 
dustrial facilities are located at Marsa al Burayqah, Misratah, and 
Ras al Unuf. Further expansion of these facilities as well as the 


The Economy 

creation of new ones was a principal objective of the 1981-85 plan. 
Most industrial projects were designed to create downstream 
petrochemical employment, satisfy internal demand for processed 
petroleum products, and take advantage of cheap energy to build 
export-oriented manufacturing capacity. 

The contrast in approaches between the relatively conservative 
development plans, with their emphasis on investment and resource 
mobilization, and Qadhafi's more radical "socialist" policies, which 
seem to sacrifice efficiency for equity, produced inherent tensions 
in economic policy-making. In certain respects, the pursuit of equity 
has hindered Libya's quest for economic independence by dis- 
couraging private sector growth. 

The political climate of Libya in the mid-1980s placed numer- 
ous obstacles in the way of private sector development. The 1978 
law requiring all enterprises to be run by workers' committees made 
effective management almost impossible. Furthermore, since 
workers' committees rarely accepted economic efficiency or profita- 
bility as valid objectives, many enterprises no longer had a clearly 
defined role in the economy. The result of such policies has been 
to stifle most dynamism in the private sector. Consequently, when 
the government needed to ensure the accomplishment of key eco- 
nomic tasks, which it was incapable of doing for itself, it had no 
choice but to turn to foreigners. 

Those Libyans possessing managerial experience or engaged in 
performing key economic activities prior to 1978 became increas- 
ingly alienated by the subsequent directions of government pol- 
icy; many even left the country. Thus, with a severely handicapped 
domestic private sector and few competent Libyan managers, the 
completion and operation of practically all key industrial projects 
depended on foreign expertise. Furthermore, because the post- 1978 
economic environment had provided little incentive for the train- 
ing of Libyan managers, there was little likelihood of easily reversing 
the shortage of indigenous managers. 

Some foreign observers have suggested that the sharp drop in 
oil revenues, which began in the early 1980s, may lead to a re- 
evaluation of many of Qadhafi's more radical socialist policies. Such 
reassessment could reduce some of the private sector's problems 
and actually contribute toward economic independence. There were 
some indications that this was indeed happening in the mid-1980s, 
as many projects of doubtful economic value were postponed. 

Because of declining revenues, the government has been unable 
to finance much of its ambitious drive to replace the private sec- 
tor. The expansion of the state-run supermarket system ended as 
funds grew tighter. By 1985 the stores were unable to supply most 


Libya: A Country Study 

basic consumer items, thus failing to drive down private sector 
prices. Similarly, the government was compelled to expel many 
foreign workers who had been the mainstay of the economy. Be- 
tween 1983 and 1987, the number of foreign workers in Libya fell 
drastically, going from more than 560,000 to about 200,000. This 
decline was achieved primarily by cutting the number of unskilled 
foreign laborers employed by the public sector to perform basic 
service tasks — jobs that many Libyans could fill. Whether the in- 
creased demand for labor in the wake of these expulsions will result 
in a greater Libyanization of the work force, or merely in a rise 
in the number of unfilled jobs will depend largely on how much 
the government relaxes its restrictions on private sector employ- 
ment. In the mid-1980s, few public sector funds were available for 
hiring Libyans at the higher salaries they would require. 


In 1984 industry, including the exploration, production, trans- 
port, and marketing of petroleum products (crude petroleum, na- 
tural gas, and condensates derived therefrom), contributed about 
60 percent of GDP (at factor cost) and virtually 100 percent of ex- 
ports. Industrial activities also occupied from 30 to 38 percent of 
the total labor force in 1984. 

Libyan industrial development has been heavily dependent on 
the oil sector, both for investment revenue and for raw inputs. 
Throughout the 1970s, the government implemented numerous 
measures to increase its share of the profits from oil exploitation 
and marketing. By the mid-1980s, the revenue accruing to foreign 
oil companies engaged in lifting Libyan oil was taxed at a rate of 
about 95 percent. 

Hydrocarbons and Mining 

Since the early 1960s, the petroleum industry has increasingly 
dominated the whole economy, although in 1984 it provided direct 
employment for fewer than 10,000 Libyans. The development of 
the oil industry was remarkable, both in terms of its rapidity and 
its proliferation. An exceptional combination of circumstances con- 
tributed to the development of the petroleum sector. Like Algerian 
oil, Libyan crude oil, while having a rather high wax content, is 
lighter and easier to handle than crudes from most other petro- 
leum areas. It also has a low sulfur content, which makes it easier 
on internal combustion engines and less of a pollution contribu- 
tant than other crudes. For this reason, Libyan crudes had a recep- 
tive market in Europe from the start; furthermore, Libya is 
one-third closer to European markets than the oil ports of the eastern 


Libya: A Country Study 

Mediterranean. When the Suez Canal was closed by the June 1967 
War, forcing tankers from Iran, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula 
to go around the Cape of Good Hope, the advantages of Libyan 
petroleum were enhanced. Moreover, the lay of the land itself, 
which allows the output of the wells to be piped directly and easily 
to dockside totally over Libya's territory, assured steadiness of sup- 
ply, which has not necessarily been the case for eastern Mediter- 
ranean pipeline outlets. In addition, Libya's petroleum development 
benefited from the technology and experience acquired by the in- 
dustry in other parts of the petroleum world during the preceding 
fifty years. Thus, by 1977 Libya was the seventh largest oil producer 
in the world. However, Libya's position declined somewhat in the 
early 1980s as OPEC production quotas were cut. By 1986 Libya 
was only the fifteenth largest producer of crude oil. 

For the petroleum industry, the military coup of 1969 did not 
represent a rupture of continuity; it did, however, introduce a shift 
in government attitudes toward the purpose and function of the 
foreign operating companies in line with its general nationalist- 
socialist political and socioeconomic orientation. It is therefore useful 
to visualize Libya's petroleum development in terms of two periods, 
dividing at September 1, 1969, with the earlier period serving to 
prepare for the later. 

Active exploration started in 1953 after oil was discovered in 
neighboring Algeria. The first well was begun in 1956 in western 
Fezzan, and the first oil was struck in 1957. Esso (subsequently 
Exxon) made the first commercial strike in 1959, just as several 
firms were planning to give up exploration. The first oil flowed 
by pipeline from Esso's concession at Zaltan to its export facilities 
at Marsa al Burayqah in 1961 . The rush was on, with other com- 
panies entering Libya and additional discoveries being made. The 
original major strikes were in the Sirtica Basin, one of the world's 
largest oil fields, southeast of the Gulf of Sidra; in 1987 this area 
was still the source of the bulk of Libya's output. In 1969 a major 
strike was made at Sarir, well to the southeast of the Sirtica Basin 
fields, and minor fields were located in northwestern Tripolitania. 
New deposits were found in the Ghadamis sedimentation basin (400 
kilometers southwest of Tripoli) in 1974 and in offshore fields 30 
kilometers northwest of Tripoli in 1977. 

Since 1977 efforts to tap new deposits have concentrated on 
Libya's offshore fields. The large Bouri field was due to be brought 
on-stream by the NOC and AGIP (Azienda Generale Italiana 
Petroli), a subsidiary of the Italian state oil company consortium, 
in late 1987. Other offshore exploration ventures were launched 
following the settlement of maritime boundary disputes with Tunisia 


The Economy 

in 1982 and Malta in 1983. Libyan access to offshore deposits in 
these formerly disputed areas was significant, because they may 
contain as much as 7 billion barrels of oil. 

Petroleum production in 1985 was still governed by the Petroleum 
Law of 1955, which was amended in 1961, 1965, and 1971. The 
government, through the Ministry of Petroleum, preferred to grant 
sizable concessions to a number of different foreign companies. To 
induce rapid exploitation of deposits, the typical concession con- 
tract called for progressive nationalization of Libyan operations run 
by foreign companies over a span of ten years, with the Libyan 
government's share starting as one-fourth and ending at three- 
fourths. The government extracted most of its compensation in the 
form of product sharing. When early concessions to several large 
companies by Esso, which was the first to export Libyan crude in 
1961, proved to be highly profitable, many independent oil com- 
panies from noncommunist countries set up similar operations in 
Libya. In 1969 about thirty-three companies held concessions. Con- 
cessionary terms were somewhat tightened during the 1970s, as 
the post-Revolutionary government pursued a more active policy 
of nationalization. The vehicle for this policy was the revamped 
state NOC, which, as noted, was formed in 1970 from LIPETCO. 
In July 1970, NOC 's jurisdiction was expanded by legislation that 
nationalized the foreign-owned Esso, Shell, and Ente Nazionale 
Idrocarburi (ENI) marketing subsidiaries, and a small local com- 
pany, Petro Libya, and transferred their operations to NOC. These 
operations included managing companies in the importing, dis- 
tributing, and selling of refined petroleum products at subsidized 
prices in Libya. In 1971 the companies were merged into a single 
countrywide marketing enterprise called the Brega Company, which 
also marketed oil and gas abroad for the government. 

The new government's nationalization campaign commenced 
in December 1971 , when it nationalized the British Petroleum share 
of the British Petroleum-Bunker Hunt Sarir field in retaliation for 
the British government's failure to intervene to prevent Iran from 
taking possession of three small islands in the Persian Gulf belonging 
to the United Arab Emirates. It was not until late 1974 that a com- 
pensation agreement was reached between British Petroleum and 
the Libyan government over the settlement of these nationalized 
assets. In December 1972, Libya moved against British Petroleum's 
former partner Bunker Hunt and demanded a 50-percent par- 
ticipation in its operations. When Bunker Hunt refused, its assets 
were nationalized in June 1973 and turned over to one of NOC s 
subsidiaries, as had been done earlier with British Petroleum's 


Libya: A Country Study 

In late 1972, a 50-percent participation had been agreed upon 
with the Italian joint company, ENI-AGIP, and in early 1973 talks 
began with the Occidental Petroleum Corporation and with the 
Oasis group. Occidental, accounting for about 15 percent of total 
production, was one of the major independent producers. In July 
1973, it agreed to NOC's purchase of 51 percent of its assets. The 
Oasis group, another major producer, was one-third owned by the 
Continental Oil Company, one-third by Marathon Petroleum, and 
one- sixth each by Amerada Petroleum Company and Shell. The 
Oasis group agreed to Libyan 51 -percent participation in August 
1973. On September 1, 1973, Libya unilaterally announced that 
it was taking over 51 percent of the remaining oil companies, ex- 
cept for a few small operators. 

Several foreign oil companies balked at the Libyan proposal but 
soon found that the government's policy was firm: agree to Libyan 
participation or face nationalization. Shell refused to accept Libyan 
participation in its share of the Oasis group, and its operations were 
nationalized in March 1974. A month earlier, three other reluc- 
tant oil companies had been nationalized: Texaco, the California 
Asiatic Company, and the Libyan- American Oil Company. They 
finally received compensation for their assets in 1977. 

Political events of the 1980s convinced many American-owned 
companies of the advisability of selling off their Libyan operations. 
In 1981 Exxon withdrew from Libya, pulling out its long-standing 
subsidiary operations. Mobil followed suit in 1982, when it with- 
drew from its operations in the Ras al Unuf system. These with- 
drawals gave NOC an even greater share in the overall oil industry. 
Another round of advancing nationalization was made possible in 
1986, when United States President Ronald Reagan announced 
on January 7 his intention to require American companies to divest 
from their operations in Libya. It was unclear at that time, however, 
whether the five companies involved would sell their shares to NOC 
(probably at a substantial loss), or merely transfer them to Euro- 
pean subsidiaries not affected by the president's sanctions. Accord- 
ing to the latest estimates available in early 1987, NOC's share 
of the total equity in Libyan petroleum operations stood at 70 per- 
cent, with two operating subsidiaries and at least a 50-percent share 
in each major private concession. 

Although NOC nominally had been under control of the Ministry 
of Petroleum, foreign observers were uncertain what real control 
the ministry had over the NOC. The ministry's dissolution in 
March 1986 produced little comment, which seemed to indicate 
that NOC was the principal instrument of government policy in 
the oil sector and controlled about two-thirds of Libya's total oil 


The Economy 

Since 1974 no new concessions have been granted, although the 
Libyan government has negotiated production- sharing agreements 
with existing concession holders to induce them to search for new 
deposits, particularly in the offshore region bordering Tunisia where 
the large Bouri field is located. These agreements have called for 
NOC to receive 81 percent of production if the discovery is off- 
shore and 85 percent if it is onshore. 

Libyan price policy has largely been settled in meetings of OPEC , 
which it joined in 1962. Both the pre-Revolutionary and post- 
Revolutionary governments have remained committed to OPEC 
as an instrument for maximizing their total oil revenues. Petroleum 
production (almost all of which was exported) declined during the 
first half of the 1970s, as a result of both the OPEC and Libyan 
policy of cutting production to influence price. During the late 
1970s, production rose slightly, only to fall again in the 1980s when 
OPEC reduced its members' production quotas in an attempt to 
halt the oil price slide. In March 1983, Libya accepted its OPEC 
quota of 1 . 1 million barrels per day (bpd— see Glossary). This figure 
was revised downward again in November 1984, when it was set 
at 990,000 bpd. Libyan oil production in 1986 averaged slightly 
more than 1.1 million bpd, having regained the same production 
it had in 1981. Generally, Libya has adhered to its OPEC quota. 

In 1986 Libyan oil fields were served by a complicated network 
of oil pipelines leading to the five principal export terminals at Marsa 
al Burayqah, As Sidra, Ras al Unuf, Marsa al Hariqah, and Az 
Zuwaytinah (see fig. 7). The Sidra terminal exported the largest 
volume of oil, about 30 percent of the total in 1981 . A future sixth 
terminal was planned at Zuwarah in western Libya. Pipelines to 
these terminals served more than one company, thus mixing differ- 
ent oil blends that were standardized for export. The share that 
an individual company received from exports was determined by 
the amount and quality or the oil that entered the common pipe- 
line. The share of the oil belonging to NOC was either sold di- 
rectly on the open market or sold back to its producing partner. 
Libyan refining capacity increased dramatically in 1985, when the 
export refinery at Ras al Unuf came on stream with a 220,000-bpd 
capacity. Other refineries existed at Tobruk (20,000 bpd), Marsa 
al Burayqah (11 ,000 bpd), and Az Zawiyah (1 16,000 bpd), giving 
Libya an overall refining capacity in 1985 of 367,000 bpd. 

Production of natural gas in Libya received a major boost in 
1971, when a law was passed requiring the oil companies to store 
and liquify the natural gas condensate from their wells, rather than 
burning it off as many had previously done. However, natural gas 
production has lagged far behind oil because the high costs of 


Libya: A Country Study 

transport and liquefaction have made it a less attractive alterna- 
tive. A large liquefaction plant was built at Marsa al Burayqah in 
1968, but its export performance has been spotty. About 70 per- 
cent of Libya's natural gas production is consumed domestically. 
Production stood at 12.35 billion cubic meters in 1984, down from 
20.38 billion cubic meters in 1980. Total reserves of natural gas 
were estimated at 600 billion cubic meters in 1985. 

According to information available in 1987, Libya's commer- 
cially usable mineral resources — apart from its hydrocarbons — 
were limited to a large iron-ore deposit in the Wadi ash Shati near 
Sabha in Fezzan (see fig. 8), and scattered, deposits of gypsum, 
limestone, cement rock, salt, and building stone. There also were 
small, widely scattered and currently noncommercial deposits of 
phosphate rock, manganese, barite-celestite, sodium carbonate, sul- 
fur, and alum. Although much of the country had been photo- 
graphed by the petroleum companies and large portions of it had 
been mapped by the Italians, by British and American military 
personnel, and by the United States Geological Survey (from 1954 
to 1962) in search of water and minerals, the country is so large 
that in early 1987 much of it still had not been mapped at scales 
suitable for definitive mineral inventory. 

The Wadi ash Shati iron-ore deposit is apparently one of the 
largest in the world. Suitable in considerable part for strip min- 
ing, it outcrops in or underlies roughly eighty square kilometers 
of the valley. According to information in the mid-1980s, none of 
it was high-grade ore. Preliminary estimates suggest that the amount 
of 30 to 40 percent iron-content ore in the deposits totals anywhere 
between 700 million and 2 billion tons. Because of the distances 
and technical problems involved, profitable exploitation of the 
deposits would depend on the construction of a proposed railroad 
to the coast. Development of the deposits would allow Libya self- 
sufficiency in iron and steel, although probably at costs apprecia- 
bly above those available on an import basis. In 1974 a state-owned 
company, the General Iron and Steel Corporation, was formed to 
exploit the deposits. The government hoped that the planned iron 
and steel manufacturing plant at Misratah, scheduled for comple- 
tion in 1986, eventually would be able to exploit the Wadi ash Shati 
deposits. But the commercial viability of using these deposits was 
not assumed, since initial plans called for the Misratah works to 
be fed with imported iron-ore pellets. 

Other scattered iron-ore deposits in northwestern Tripolitania 
and northern Fezzan were apparently insufficient to be commer- 
cially exploitable under current conditions. Manganese was known 
to exist in northwestern Tripolitania and, in combination with 



Libya: A Country Study 

the iron-ore deposits, at several locations in the Wadi ash Shati. 
Known deposits, however, were not considered commercially ex- 

Salt flats, formed by evaporation at lagoonal deposits near the 
coast and in closed depressions in the desert interior, are widely 
scattered through the northern part of the country. In some cases, 
especially along the Gulf of Sidra, they cover large areas. In the 
1980s, about 11,000 tons of salt were produced annually. Evidences 
of sulfur have been reported at scattered points in the salt flats of 
the Sirtica Basin and in various parts of Fezzan; sulfur occurs in 
pure form in Fezzan and is associated with sulfur springs in the 
Sirtica Basin. 

Sodium carbonate (trona) is formed as a crust at the edges and 
bottoms of a number of dry lakes in Fezzan. Traditionally, about 
100 metric tons a year were harvested and sent to market at Sabha. 
Because sodium carbonate is used in petroleum refining, as well 
as traditionally in soapmaking and water refining, production may 
be increased as part of the government's development effort in 

Because of the government's interest in social welfare and its 
financial ability to support it, construction is bound to be a major 
area of future economic development. Except for wood, the raw 
materials needed for construction — stone, gravel, clay, limestone, 
gypsum, and cheap fuel — are found in abundant quantities and 
suitable commercial qualities adjacent to the major population and 
production centers in both northern Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. 
In 1986 plans were announced for a new gypsum mine with a 
planned output of 200,000 to 300,000 tons a year. Several thou- 
sand tons of gypsum are mined annually and indicated reserves 
of gypsum total about 200 million tons. 

Manufacturing and Construction 

Growth in Libyan industrial capacity began in force only after 
1969. Earlier manufacturing efforts concentrated primarily on 
processing domestic crops and livestock products and on handicraft 
products. Before the revolution, 90 percent of Libya's manufac- 
turing establishments were located in Benghazi or Tripoli, and 75 
to 80 percent of these were owned by Italians. Nearly 90 percent 
of the manufacturing establishments were private, and most em- 
ployed fewer than 20 workers. 

This situation started to change after 1969. After marking time 
for almost a year, the new government opted for a restricted in- 
dustrial policy resembling the policies of Egypt and Algeria. In the 
late 1970s, the industrial sector (including manufacturing) was 


The Economy 

planned by the government, which had assumed control over those 
aspects of industrial production that were deemed sensitive or too 
large for the domestic private sector. The new policy leaned heav- 
ily on freeing industry, including manufacturing, from dependence 
on foreign ownership or control. In what appeared to be in part 
at least a function of its new policy, the government required local 
companies that engaged in trade to be Libyan and nationalized 
the properties of Italians, who represented the bulk of the coun- 
try's entrepreneurship and private sector. 

Before 1980 the government concentrated on developing light 
processing and petrochemical industries. Processing of foodstuffs 
continued to remain a high priority, and the largest number of 
plants built during the 1970s were in this area. Other major 
manufacturing projects during the decade included textile com- 
plexes, a new oil refinery, two petrochemical plants, a fertilizer 
factory, and an electrical cable plant. Gains in value added from 
manufacturing over this period were impressive. In constant 1980 
dollars, value added in manufacturing rose from US$196 million 
to US$760 million in 1983. Still, in terms of contribution to GDP, 
in 1983 manufacturing contributed only 4 percent of the total (see 
table 6, Appendix.). In that year, an estimated 80,500 people 
worked in the manufacturing sector, about 7 percent of the total 
labor force. Light industries — mainly food processing — continued 
to comprise the largest share of total manufacturing capacity by 
the early 1980s. 

Encouraging the development of heavy industry became a high 
priority for the government in the 1980s. The 1981-85 develop- 
ment plan called for the allocation of LD2.725 billion to heavy 
industry — 15 percent of the total development plan allocation and 
second only to agriculture at 17 percent. However, as indicated 
earlier, because expenditure under the development budget was 
highly dependent on oil revenues, actual expenditures often failed 
to reach planned levels (see Public Finance and Banking, this ch.). 
Thus, the government's drive to build heavy industrial capacity 
in the 1980s has been hampered by declining revenues, and many 
projects were running behind schedule. 

Key heavy industrial developments under construction in the 
1981-85 plan included an expansion of the ammonium/urea plant 
at Marsa al Burayqah, a new ethylene unit at Ras al Unuf, and 
the large iron and steel complex at Misratah. The Ras al Unuf 
ethylene plant was completed in 1986, and the other two projects 
were nearing completion in early 1987. 

Projects in the early stages of development in 1987 included a 
fertilizer complex at Surt, an aluminum smelter and coke plant 


Libya: A Country Study 


Al Kufrah 

International boundary Minerals 

National capital ± | ron Q re 

Water Pipelines ■ Gypsum 

Phase I (to be completed in 1989) □ Limestone 

Phase II (to be completed in 1990) Mn Manganese 

Phase III (proposed) Sc Sodium Carbonate 


100 MILES * Su,fur 


Figure 8. Nonpetroleum Resources 

at Zuwarah, and a further expansion of the Ras al Unuf petrochem- 
ical plant. However, all these projects were in serious jeopardy, 
as a result of the 1986 decline in oil prices, and Libyan planners 
were re-evaluating the impact of industrial projects on the balance 
of payments . 

During the period of high oil prices before 1981, the develop- 
ment of import-dependent heavy industry seemed feasible. Libya 
enjoyed cheap energy costs in comparison to Europe and pos- 
sessed the foreign exchange to pay for raw material imports. The 
1980s decline in oil prices has reduced Libya's advantage in terms 
of energy costs and greatly cut into its supply of foreign exchange. 
Whereas in 1979 it may have been possible for the government 
both to import industrial raw materials and subsidize food imports, 
by 1987 it was becoming increasingly clear that the available 


The Economy 

foreign exchange was insufficient to accommodate both pro- 

This problem was obvious in existing industry during the 
mid-1980s, when production and productive capacity ratios for 
selected manufacturers varied substantially from year to year, 
depending on whether imported raw materials were available. To 
cite a dramatic example, in 1983 Libya had a productive capacity 
of 18,000 washing machine units but produced only 4,533. As a 
result of cutbacks in foreign exchange allocations in 1984, only 289 
machines were produced (productive capacity remained un- 
changed); thus, used capacity decreased from about 25 percent to 
under 2 percent. 

Used capacity in other manufacturing industries varied widely. 
In 1984 oil refining operated at 36 percent of capacity, methanol 
production at 84 percent, ammonia at 91 percent, and tractor 
production at 67 percent. The country's unused manufacturing 
capacity could be traced not only to the scarcity of foreign exchange 
but also to Libya's general shortage of labor. 

The construction industry has played a prominent role in eco- 
nomic development, as one would expect in a country largely de- 
void of infrastructure before the mid-1960s. The construction 
industry got its start as a result of foreign oil company investment 
during the 1960s, but since 1969 it has grown in accordance with 
the government construction projects called for in the successive 
five-year plans. 

In 1975 the government began to reorganize the construction 
industry to make it more efficient. At that time, there were about 
2,000 contractors, many of them small proprietorships or partner- 
ships. The minister of housing was given the authority to merge 
contracting firms into a smaller number of larger firms capable of 
carrying out large construction projects. Firms with capital in ex- 
cess of LD30,000 were converted into corporations, and the majority 
shares were sold to the public or the government. Previously, the 
government had set up several state-owned construction compa- 
nies to build factories and to carry out civil engineering projects. 
Among the firms were the National Industrial Contracting Com- 
pany, the General Corporation for the Construction and Main- 
tenance of Roads, and the General Corporation for Civil Works. 

The many government-sponsored construction projects of the 
1970s created a booming industry, so much so that by the end of 
the decade Libya had become the world's leading per capita con- 
sumer of cement. This was a significant economic achievement, 
particularly because the 1978 housing law effectively had eliminated 
private residential construction. In 1986 construction supplied about 


Libya: A Country Study 

11 percent of GDP, second only to public services in the non- 
petroleum sector. 

The construction industry, however, was damaged more than 
any other sector by the severe cutback in the number of foreign 
workers in Libya in the mid-1980s. Between mid- 1983 and 
mid- 1984, the number of construction workers dropped from 
371,000 to 197,000, mainly because of the departure of foreign 
workers. Nonetheless, construction remained the number one em- 
ployer during 1984. 

The cutbacks in development spending, together with the for- 
eign worker exodus, led to a decline in overall construction. As 
an illustration, in 1985 the cement industry, which had been ex- 
panded during the building boom, was capable of producing 6 mil- 
lion tons a year, but domestic demand had dwindled to only 4.5 
million tons. 

In addition to the construction decline, there has been a rapid 
decline in another economic area, that of traditional handicrafts. 
Rural artisans have taken up more lucrative employment, and 
utilitarian handmade products have been replaced by factory-made 
goods. In an effort to provide continuous employment for those 
artisans who desire to continue their trades, the government has 
set up several training centers and provided subsidies for raw mate- 
rials. Most artisan production is purchased by the government for 
resale or export. The more popular craft items are carpets, pot- 
tery, leather goods, fabrics, and copperware. 


With its substantial hydrocarbon resources and relatively small 
(although increasing) needs, Libya traditionally has had large 
energy surpluses. Estimates in 1983 put the amount of Libya's 
excess energy supply at 94,196 tons of coal equivalent. All electric 
power was thermally generated by stations powered with natural 
gas or petroleum. Total generating capacity in 1983 was estimated 
to be 7,150 gigawatts per hour. 

The General Electric Organization, part of the Secretariat of 
Communications, was in charge of generating electricity. Accord- 
ing to its data, domestic usage of electricity exceeded agricultural 
and industrial usage. The data for 1977 suggested that most homes 
had electrical power and also indicated the relatively small indus- 
trial base of the country. Many oil company installations, however, 
maintained their own small plants. 

Under the 1981-85 development plan, a total of LD779 million 
was allocated for electrical projects between 1982 and 1985. In ad- 
dition, Libya has actively sought to develop a nuclear power 


An instructor teaches students in an automotive repair class 
Courtesy United States Information Agency 

generating facility for fear that its rising industrial power needs 
might begin to cut into oil exports. In 1985 technical studies were 
under way for the construction of an 880-megawatt nuclear power 
station near Surt. The Soviet Union had agreed to supply the two 
440-megawatt reactor cores needed to power the plant. The total 
cost of the project was put at US$4.2 billion. According to the secre- 
tary for atomic energy, enough local uranium had been discovered 
to fuel the plant, but studies were also being done on deposits in 
the Aouzou Strip area in Libyan-occupied Chad (see fig. 3). In 
1985 approximately 850 Libyans were undergoing training at the 
Tajura nuclear research center near Tripoli, which was equipped 
with a small 10-megawatt research reactor. 


The history of Libya's agricultural development has been close- 
ly related, although inversely, to the development of its oil indus- 
try. In 1958, before the era of oil wealth, agriculture supplied over 
26 percent of GDP, and Libya actually exported food. Although 
gross levels of agricultural production have remained relatively con- 
stant, increasing oil revenues have resulted in a decline in agricul- 
ture's overall share of national income. Thus, by 1962 agriculture 
was only responsible for 9 percent of GDP, and by 1978 this figure 
had tumbled to a mere 2 percent. Even more striking than the 


Libya: A Country Study 

downward trend in agriculture's share of GDP was the rise in food 
imports. In 1977 the value of food imports was more than thirty- 
seven times greater than it had been in 1958. Therefore, a large 
part of the rising oil wealth between 1960 and 1979 was spent on 
imported food products. 

To some extent, these trends were neither surprising nor dis- 
turbing. Libya's comparatively strong agricultural position in 1958 
masked an even greater level of general poverty. Agriculture dur- 
ing the 1950s was characterized by low levels of productivity and 
income. The advent of oil wealth provided many peasants with op- 
portunities to engage in less exacting and more remunerative work 
in the urban areas, resulting in a huge rural migration to the ci- 
ties. In addition, Libya is not well endowed with agricultural 
resources; over 94 percent of the land consists of agriculturally use- 
less wasteland. The large number of people engaged in agricul- 
ture prior to 1960 reflected, therefore, not a thriving agricultural 
economy but merely the absence of attractive alternatives. 

The number of peasants who gave up farming to look for jobs 
in the oil industry and in urban areas rose dramatically through- 
out the 1955-62 period. Another adverse effect on agricultural 
production occurred during the 1961-63 period, when the govern- 
ment offered its citizens long-term loans to purchase land from 
Italian settlers. This encouraged urban dwellers to purchase rural 
lands for recreational purposes rather than as productive farms, 
thereby inflating land values and contributing to a decline in 

Since 1962 Libyan governments have paid more attention to 
agricultural development. The government has given inducements 
to absentee landlords to encourage them to put their lands to produc- 
tive use and initiated high agricultural wage policies to stem the 
rural-to-urban flow of labor. These policies met with some suc- 
cess. Production levels began to rise slightly, and many foreign 
workers were attracted to the agricultural sector. Agricultural de- 
velopment became the cornerstone of the 1981-85 development 
plan, which attached high priority to funding the GMMR project, 
designed to bring water from the large desert oasis aquifers of Sarir 
and Al Kufrah. Agricultural credit was provided by the National 
Agricultural Bank, which in 1981 made almost 10,000 loans to farm- 
ers at an average of nearly LD 1,500 each. The substantial amounts 
of funds made available by this bank may have been a major rea- 
son why so many Libyans — nearly 20 percent of the labor force 
in 1984 — chose to remain in the agricultural sector (see table 4, 


The Economy 

Wm Cropland and pasture * National capital 

J ESS Orchards, groves, International 

and vineyards boundary 
S3 Mixed agriculture 

Rangeland o 100 k ilometers 

I ffTEDl Open wetland ' '160 miles 
I □ Desert 

1 i 1 L 

Figure 9. Land Use, 1987 

Despite the greater attention to agriculture, however, in 1984 
this sector only accounted for about 3.5 percent of GDP, and Libya 
still imported over 1 million metric tons of cereals (up from 612,000 
metric tons in 1974). Also in 1984, the average index of food produc- 
tion per capita indicated a decline of 6 percent from the period 1974 
to 1976. On the average, about 70 percent of Libya's food needs 
were met by imports during the mid-1980s. 

Land Use and Irrigation 

Although statistics vary, only a very small percentage of Libyan 
land is arable — probably under 2 percent of total land area (see 
fig. 9). About 4 percent is suitable for grazing livestock and the 
rest is agriculturally useless desert. Most arable land lies in two 
places: the Jabal al Akhdar region around Benghazi, and the Jifarah 
Plain near Tripoli (see fig. 4). The highest parts of the Jabal al 


Libya: A Country Study 

Akhdar receive between 400 and 600 millimeters of rain annually, 
whereas the immediately adjacent area, sloping north to the Marj 
Plain, receives between 200 and 400 millimeters. The central and 
eastern parts of the Jifarah Plain and the nearby Jabal Nafusah 
also average between 200 and 400 millimeters of rain annually. 
The remaining Libyan coastal strip and the areas just to the south 
of the sectors described average 100 to 200 millimeters of rain yearly. 
In addition, the Jifarah Plain is endowed with an underground 
aquifer that has made intensive well-driven irrigation possible. 
Between these two areas and for a distance of about fifty kilometers 
south, there is a narrow strip of land that has enough scrub vege- 
tation to support livestock. Desert predominates south of this strip, 
with only occasional oasis cultivation, such as at Al Kufrah, Sabha, 
and Marzuq. 

Studies published in the late 1970s indicated that at any given 
time, about one-third of the total arable land remained fallow and 
that as many as 45 percent of the farms were under 10 hectares. 
The average farm size was about eleven hectares, although many 
were fragmented into small, noncontiguous plots. Most farms in 
the Jifarah Plain were irrigated by individual wells and electric 
pumps, although in 1985 only about 1 percent of the arable land 
was irrigated. 

Since coming to power in 1969, the Qadhafi government has 
been very concerned with land reform. Shortly after the Revolu- 
tion, the government confiscated all Italian-owned farms (about 
38,000 hectares) and redistributed much of this land in smaller plots 
to Libyans. The state retained some of the confiscated lands for 
state farming ventures, but in general the government has not 
sought to eliminate the private sector from agriculture as it has with 
commerce. It did, however, take the further step in 1971 of declaring 
all uncultivated land to be state property. This measure was aimed 
mainly at certain powerful conservative tribal groups in the Jabal 
al Akhdar, who had laid claim to large tracts of land. Another law 
passed in 1977 placed further restriction on tribal systems of land 
ownership, emphasizing actual use as the deciding factor in deter- 
mining land ownership. Since 1977 an individual family has been 
allotted only enough land to satisfy its own requirements; this policy 
was designed to prevent the development of large-scale private sector 
farms and to end the practice of using fertile "tribal" lands for 
grazing rather than cultivation. 

Partly as a result of these policies as well as the dictates of Islamic 
rules of inheritance, which stipulate that each son should receive 
an equal share of family land upon the father's death, in 1986 
Libyan farms tended to be fragmented and too small to make 


The Economy 

efficient use of water. This problem was especially severe in the 
long-settled Jifarah Plain, which has been Libya's single most 
productive agricultural region. 

The falling water tables in Libya's best agricultural lands caused 
by overirrigation posed a severe long-term ecological threat to 
agriculture. The government began to recognize this in 1976, and 
took measures to discourage citrus and tomato cultivation, both 
of which required large amounts of water. However, the more strin- 
gent steps required to save the coastal water resources — principally 
the regulation of irrigation and changing the land tenure system 
to make it more water-efficient — conflicted with Qadhafl's concept 
of economic equity, which favored intensive irrigated cultivation 
of small plots for family use. 

The government's overall strategy for dealing with the impend- 
ing ecological crisis has not been to reform the practices that brought 
it about. Rather, the cornerstone of agricultural policy since 1983 
has been to avert disaster by pumping large quantities of water 
to the coast from the fossil reserves of the southern desert. This 
project, the GMMR, was expected to cost US$15 billion for the 
first two stages and has largely been spared from the cuts in de- 
velopment spending that have delayed many other projects in the 

The first phase of the GMMR, on which construction began in 
1984, called for the construction of a 1,895-kilometer pipeline to 
carry water from the Sarir and Tazirbu regions to a holding tank 
at Ajdabiya. From there the water will be pumped to Surt and 
Benghazi for both agricultural and urban consumption. Planners 
anticipated a total cost of about US$3.29 billion for this first phase 
and a completion date sometime in 1989. The first stage is projected 
to irrigate an area of 20,000 hectares for vegetables, and 50,000 
hectares for cereals, and to enable the raising of some 100 head 
of cattle. A second stage will connect the fossil reserves at Al Kufrah 
to the system. It will also extend the pipelines from Ajdabiya to 
Tobruk. Planning for a possible third stage, which would link 
Tripoli to the underground reserves of the western Fezzan region 
and would extend the western coastal terminus from Surt to Tripoli, 
was also under way in 1987. 

After completion of the second stage, the GMMR will be capa- 
ble of delivering up to 5 million cubic meters of water a day. 
According to estimates, this amount would be sufficient to irrigate 
180,000 hectares in the Surt area, to provide pasture for 2 million 
sheep and 200,000 cattle, and to supply industrial and domestic 
needs in Benghazi and Tripoli. According to the project's Ameri- 
can designers, the Al Kufrah and Sarir aquifers could sustain pump- 
ing at this rate for 50 to 100 years without depletion. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Despite planners' optimistic predictions about the benefits of the 
GMMR, foreign observers doubt that it will resolve the difficul- 
ties facing agriculture. Whatever the size of the desert aquifers, 
they are finite fossil reserves and will not last indefinitely. Further- 
more, the major agricultural developments planned for the Surt 
region will do nothing to stop the declining levels of productivity 
in the Jifarah Plain. In fact, the choice of Surt as a site for massive 
agricultural development may have been prompted more by 
Qadhafi's family roots being there than its suitability for intensive 
agricultural development. In addition, urban and industrial de- 
mand for water from the south is likely to increase as the popula- 
tion continues to grow and as various industrial projects begin 

The GMMR's long-term impact on oasis cultivation in the south 
is also likely to be negative. Many of Libya's showcase agricultural 
projects are located in the southern oases that depend on the fossil 
aquifers that the GMMR will tap. Developments at Al Kufrah and 
Sarir have used advanced irrigation technology to grow wheat and 
fodder crops. The depletion of the fossil reserves on which these 
projects depend means that they have little long-term viability. 
Given the extremely high cost and low yields achieved as of the 
early 1980s, a re-evaluation of the economic viability of these 
projects may well occur. 

Crops and Livestock 

In the 1980s, statistics on Libyan agricultural production con- 
tinued to vary widely. For example, figures compiled by the Cen- 
tral Bank of Libya generally exceeded those published by the UN 
Food and Agriculture Organization by 10 to 100 percent. During 
the 1980s, wheat and barley were the principal cereal crops, 
although millet was also grown in the southern oases. Both crops 
were cultivated throughout the country, in the coastal regions as 
well as in the desert oases. The optimum yield for wheat cultiva- 
tion in Libya was thought to be about 5 tons per hectare, but by 
the mid-1980s yields were only averaging about 0.5 ton per hec- 
tare. Citrus production declined to insignificant levels following 
the government's water conservation measures of 1976. Other im- 
portant crops were dates, olives, melons, onions, and potatoes. 
Vegetables were grown in specialized farms near Tripoli. Tree crops 
remained popular because many farmers combined olive, date, 
apple, or almond raising with cereal production (see table 7, 

In the 1980s, livestock represented the largest income-producing 
item in agricultural production, and the government has instituted 


The Economy 

numerous measures designed to make the country self-sufficient 
in meat, poultry, and dairy products. The numbers of sheep, cat- 
tle, and poultry were slowly increasing, while the herds of goats 
and camels were decreasing. Sheep constituted the largest percen- 
tage of livestock, numbering some 6.3 million head in 1985. Sheep 
and goats were used for meat, milk, and wool and were found all 
over the country. The largest flocks were in the Al Kufrah settle- 
ment project. Modern range-management practices and techniques 
were being used to prevent overgrazing of the land and to make 
optimal use of the pastures. Thousands of hectares of pastureland 
had been fenced along the coastal regions for use as cattle breed- 
ing stations as well as livestock-fattening pens. 

Until the 1970s, cattle were used mainly for transport. During 
the 1970s, the number of cattle — particularly dairy cattle — 
increased, as did milk and meat production. By 1985 there were 
nearly 209,000 head of cattle in the country, and several fodder 
plants were in various stages of completion as part of an effort to 
achieve self-sufficiency in animal feedstuff's. The General Dairy and 
Dairy Products Company was created in 1974 to take over most 
private dairies and to produce and market all dairy products. Pri- 
vate dairy farms were permitted to operate, but their milk had to 
be sold to the state company. The government also entered the 
poultry business on a large scale, and independent farmers found 
it difficult to compete against the large government poultry farms. 

Fishing and Forestry 

Although Libya possesses nearly 1,800 kilometers of coastline 
and the second largest continental shelf in the Mediterranean, its 
waters are not particularly rich in the plankton needed to sustain 
highly productive fishing waters. In 1977 Libya's fishing catch stood 
at 4,803 tons. By 1981 it had risen to 6,418 tons— still one of the 
smaller national catches in the Mediterranean. Most of Libya's 
fishing fleet was located on the western half of its coastline, espe- 
cially around Tripoli, because the country's eastern and central 
coasts possessed less attractive fishing grounds. Estimates in 1979 
put the number of fishing boats at 325, of which 13 were trawlers; 
the rest were small and medium-sized boats. Approximately 1,000 
to 1 ,200 people were thought to be professional fishermen in 1981 . 
The government has been encouraging fishing activities and 
attempting to stimulate a demand for fish. In 1986 a new fishing 
port was under construction at Zuwarah, and numerous ice plants 
have been built at several coastal sites. Agreements for joint 
development of fishing have been signed with several countries, 
including Tunisia and Spain. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Sponge fishing has been monopolized by Greek fishermen who 
have been licensed by the Libyan government. A tiny percentage 
of the harvest has been obtained by Libyans using small boats and 
skin-diving equipment from the shallow waters inshore. The Greeks 
have used modern equipment to exploit the deepwater beds where 
the best sponges lie. In an experiment begun in 1977, the govern- 
ment has established freshwater fish farms in several inshore 

For commercial purposes, the country has no forests. Although 
the government designated more than 62,400 hectares as wood- 
land or forest, most of this land is covered with scrub and minor 

During the 1960s, the government actively pursued an afforesta- 
tion program; these activities were accelerated in the 1970s. An 
estimated 213 million seedlings had been planted by 1977, about 
33 million of which were fruit trees. Most of the reforestation has 
been in western Libya. During reforestation efforts, scientist have 
experimented with a petrochemical spray that is sufficiently porous 
to allow the occasional rain to trickle and seep through, yet sturdy 
enough to prevent the seedling from being blown away during one 
of the country's frequent and severe sandstorms. The government's 
long-term goals for the massive planting program include the growth 
of enough trees to meet its domestic lumber needs, which in the 
past had been met by imports. Short-term goals include soil con- 
servation and reclamation, and the creation of windbreaks for crops 
and settlements. 

Income and Wealth 

The declining oil prices of the 1980s reversed the previous 
decade's trend of sustained growth in national income. In real 
terms, GDP grew every year from 1972 to 1980. Since 1980, 
however, there has been a constant decline. A turning point for 
the economy occurred in 1981, as real GDP dropped a staggering 
18 percent. Preliminary figures for 1984 estimated that, in con- 
stant 1980 terms, the GDP was LD7.5 billion, a level comparable 
to that of 1975-76. The rate of growth in real GDP has exhibited 
widespread fluctuations since 1970. In two years during the 
mid-1970s (1974 and 1976), real GDP grew at an annual rate of 
over 18 percent. Apart from these two dramatic years, real GDP 
grew at an unspectacular average rate of 0.9 percent from 1970 
to 1984. 

Per capita changes in gross national product (GNP — see Glos- 
sary) have largely paralleled changes in GDP. In general, however, 
GNP growth has not kept pace with population expansion, resulting 


Farmers plant seedlings to stem the advance of the desert 
Courtesy United States Information Agency 

in an overall rate of growth in GNP per capita of -1.1 percent from 
1965 to 1984. Nevertheless, in 1984 dollars, Libya's GNP per capita 
was US$8,520— roughly equivalent to that of Britain's GNP. 

The breakdown of the GDP by contributing sectors changed 
greatly in the 1960s as the oil wealth began to flow. Whereas in 
the pre-petroleum period agriculture contributed between 25 and 
30 percent of GDP, by 1962 it was down to 10 percent. In the same 
year, only one year after Libya became a petroleum exporter, oil 
exports accounted for over 23 percent of GDP. 

By 1968 the contribution of petroleum products to GDP had risen 
to about 60 percent. All other sectors except construction decreased 
in relative terms between 1962 and 1968; agriculture declined to 
3 percent of the total and manufacturing to about 2 percent. In 
1971 the contrast between the petroleum sector and the rest of the 
economy had become even greater. Petroleum had come to account 
for some 70 percent of GDP, construction 5 percent, agriculture 
2 percent, and manufacturing 1 percent. The rest of the economy 
taken together apparently contributed only about 20 percent of 
GDP. What these percentages reflected was not an absolute decline 
in the nonpetroleum sector as a whole but rather the extraordi- 
nary relative growth of the petroleum sector. 

Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, there were few major 
changes in the composition of GDP. In most years, petroleum 


Libya: A Country Study 

products accounted for between 50 and 60 percent of GDP. Since 
1982, however, declining oil revenues have reduced the petroleum 
sector's share of GDP. Transportation and construction have 
accounted for relatively large shares, which is not surprising given 
the heavy investment effort in infrastructure. The consistently low 
contributions of agriculture and industry to GDP were disappoint- 
ing, given the large amount of development spending in those areas. 
About the only component of GDP to exhibit a steady growth has 
been the public service sector, which rose from 5 percent in 1978 
to 12 percent in 1984 . The burgeoning of the public sector reflected 
the strong bias against private sector growth that developed over 
this same period. 

An income study of selected households in Tripoli and Benghazi 
in the early 1970s indicated the existence of a large middle class. 
Only 1.5 percent of households in Benghazi and 2.3 percent in 
Tripoli had monthly incomes below LD25. About 7.2 and 5 per- 
cent, respectively, of the households in these cities had monthly 
incomes of over LD300; the vast majority — between 50 and 60 
percent — had monthly incomes between LD50 and LD100. 

During the 1970s, the usual dichotomy between rural and urban 
incomes was lessened in Libya. The fringe benefits and free social 
services that the government brought to the rural areas helped to 
increase disposable income. Many urban residents retained ties to 
their families in rural areas and remitted part of their earnings. 
Farm income generally rose because of increased demand for 
agricultural products and because of improvements being made 
in agriculture by the government. Agricultural wage rates were 
relatively high, reflecting the shortage of labor. Wage rates paid 
on state-owned farms were higher than on private farms; private 
farmers tended to hire lower paid foreign agricultural workers, 
mainly from Egypt. 

Since 1978 salaries have been limited to an annual maximum 
of LD1 0,000. The construction industry probably paid the highest 
wages despite the popular conception that oil industry wages were 
the highest. The oil industry, however, provided more job security. 

The true effect on income of the radical measures put into effect 
in 1978 remained unclear in early 1987. The resolution outlawing 
rental income did increase the disposable incomes of renters, who 
in 1978 comprised an estimated one-third of the population. It also 
eliminated a major income source for landlords and removed what 
had been the main area of private investment. Although landlords 
were allowed to continue renting to those in need of short-term 
accommodation, the 1978 policies severely diminished the economic 


The Economy 

power of wealthy, large-scale property owners who had been a 
potent force in politics. 

The effect of the law requiring worker participation in manage- 
ment has been less clear-cut. Whereas the 1973 profit-sharing 
requirement probably increased worker incomes by requiring pri- 
vate and public firms to distribute one-quarter of their profits to 
workers, the 1978 extension may have hurt workers by undermin- 
ing the profitability of the enterprises in which they worked. Indeed, 
many owners liquidated their businesses rather than face losing 
control of them. 

Overall, the generous public attempts to supply subsidized social 
services, education, and medical care, when combined with the 
more sporadic availability of subsidized basic consumer items, have 
increased disposable incomes and caused a general rise in the stan- 
dard of living for most people when compared to pre- 1969 Libya. 
To a large extent, these policies depended on stable, plentiful oil 
revenues. The degree to which living standards and income levels 
can be maintained, given the drop in oil revenues during the 1980s, 
was not clear in 1987. To a certain extent, at least in the first few 
years of falling revenues, the government avoided cutting back on 
consumption by making small cuts in development spending and 
drawing down on its reserves. This latter policy was especially dra- 
matic, and Libya's total foreign-exchange reserve position declined 
by 75 percent between 1980 and 1984. 

Price information on Libya should be viewed with caution 
because it rarely has been clear whether price indexes are based 
on official controlled prices, which may or may not be effective 
at different times, or on private, noncontrolled prices. Probably 
the most accurate measure of inflation in the economy is the aver- 
age annual percentage change in the implicit GDP deflator. By 
this measure, during the period 1965 to 1973, inflation progressed 
at a rate of 9.4 percent a year. From 1973 to 1984, the rate increased 
to 10.8 percent a year. Although these rates were slightly higher 
than the average inflation rate of industrial market economies, they 
were less than the average rate of other high-income, low-population 
oil exporters. Libya's rate of inflation from 1965 to 1984, there- 
fore, was modest in comparison to the inflation rates of some of 
its counterparts in the Persian Gulf. 

Public Finance and Banking 

As of early 1985, the public sector consisted of the central govern- 
ment, the municipalities, and the state organizations and agencies. 
(Before 1975 the public sector included the provinces, but these 
were abolished as political units in that year.) Municipalities had 


Libya: A Country Study 

their own sources of revenue, but most of their budgets were cov- 
ered by transfers from the central government. Of the numerous 
public entities, some were profitable and contributed surpluses to 
the treasury, but others required transfers from the central govern- 
ment to meet their expenses. On a consolidated basis, the public 
enterprises had an overall surplus of LD25 million. However, in 
both 1983 and 1984, public enterprises operated at a net loss. 

Budget, Expenditures, and Revenues 

The first budget surplus in Libya's history occurred in 1966 when 
oil revenues began to increase spectacularly. Budget methodology 
and fiscal policy under the monarchy in the 1960s had tended to 
follow a 1959 World Bank (see Glossary) mission's recommenda- 
tions, as modified by the progressive influence of rising national- 
ism and the unforeseen growth of the petroleum industry. Increased 
integration of the provincial fiscal administrations with the cen- 
tral administration was effectively achieved by the conversion of 
the monarchy from a federal to a unitary form of government in 
1 963 . The assurance of large future oil revenues enabled the govern- 
ment to introduce, also in 1963, a sizable development plan and 
a corresponding administrative apparatus. The plan legislation 
included a provision that not less than 70 percent of all future 
petroleum revenues should be allocated to the financing of 

During the monarchy, the government's budget was organized 
by the Ministry of Finance, discussed and sanctioned by the parlia- 
ment, and signed into law by the king. It consisted of a current 
expenses budget and (after 1962) a development expenditures 
budget. After the June 1967 War, a supplement was added to 
finance enlarged national defense outlays and annual subsidies to 
Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. 

Under the Revolutionary government, the budget was divided 
into an annual administrative expenses budget, an annual develop- 
ment expenditures budget, and a special expenditures budget. 
Beginning in 1982, the government also listed certain key imports 
under a new commodity budget. Until 1974 the fiscal year (FY — 
see Glossary) had begun in April, but since January 1974 the fis- 
cal year has been concurrent with the Gregorian calendar year. 
New procedures for developing the budget were initiated in FY 
1978. Initial proposals for the administrative budget started at the 
municipal level; the proposals were forwarded to an appropriate 
secretariat for consolidation and subsequent submission to the 
Secretariat of the Treasury, which reviewed and forwarded the 
proposals to the General People's Congress (GPC — see Glossary) 


The Economy 

for final approval. The development budget was prepared initially 
by the organizations that would implement the specific project; the 
proposals were then sent to the Secretariat of Planning for revi- 
sions and submission to the GPC. The special expenditures and 
commodity budgets have not been in the formal budget, but they 
have been approved during the fiscal year by the GPC. 

Special expenditures usually have included grants, loans, sub- 
sidies, and the purchase of equipment for national defense. The 
total generally has not been made available to the public because 
of the defense-related expenditures, but some partial expenditures 
for special items have been released on occasion. As much as 80 
percent of the administrative budget has been spent by the central 
government — the rest being divided between the municipalities and 
public enterprises in years when they ran at a net loss. In the 
mid-1980s, however, municipal allocations were increasing at the 
expense of central governmental expenditures. In 1983 and 1984, 
central allocations under the administrative budget were just under 
50 percent of the total, whereas the municipalities spent just over 
50 percent. By 1985 the municipal share of the total administra- 
tive budget allocations had risen to 71.5 percent, whereas the cen- 
tral government took only the remaining 28.5 percent. 

Before the 1969 Revolution, the government spent more funds 
on the administrative budget than on investments. Since 1969, 
however, development expenditures have been much higher than 
administrative expenditures because of the government's policy of 
using oil revenues to build for the future. The development budget 
generally has covered economic and social projects, but it also has 
included working capital for public sector corporations and some 
lending and operating expenditures. The annual development 
budget has usually corresponded to a certain percentage of the total 
amount projected to be spent by the current development plan. 
All budgets have been amended frequently during the course of 
any year; the amendments generally reflect increases for specific 
projects or purposes or cover the increased costs of imported items 
for development projects. 

Planned expenditures under both the administrative and develop- 
ment budgets increased rapidly during the 1970s. By FY 1980, the 
administrative budget had increased by almost five times its level 
in FY 1974, moving from LD192.9 million to LD950 million. The 
development budget, over the same time period, increased its 
planned expenditures by slightly less than a factor of four, from 
LD740 million to LD2.53 billion. During the 1980s, growth leveled 
off. The administrative budget increased by only 14 percent between 
FY 1981 and FY 1984, and allocations to the development 


Libya: A Country Study 

budget, which has always been the largest component of total 
government spending, actually decreased almost 30 percent. Data 
available for the commodity budget indicate that LD1.56 billion 
and LD1.67 billion were spent in FY 1983 and FY 1984, respec- 

By far the largest item in the FY 1984 administrative budget 
was for defense spending, which accounted for 24 percent of the 
total (see Defense Costs, ch. 5). The next largest item was for edu- 
cation at only 6 percent of the total budget. Under the develop- 
ment budget, the biggest items traditionally have been agriculture, 
heavy industry, oil and gas extraction, and communications and 
shipping. The relative levels of expenditures among these four items 
usually depended on the guiding philosophy behind the particular 
development plan in force when actual budget allocations were 
made. Thus, in FY 1974 and 1975, heavy industry and oil extrac- 
tion received the most funding. From 1976 through 1979, the lar- 
gest percentages went to agriculture, including irrigation. During 
the 1980s, heavy industry and, to an increasing extent since 1982, 
communications and shipping occupied the leading positions in the 
development budget. Since 1983 the commodity budget has mainly 
been used to subsidize imports of basic foods, raw materials and 
parts for light industries, and key engineering projects, principally 
the GMMR (see Land Use and Irrigation, this ch.). 

The government funded these budgets in a simple, if unusual, 
manner. All nonpetroleum revenues were assigned to cover admin- 
istrative budget expenditures. Any gap between revenues and 
expenditures was met by transferring some of the petroleum 
revenue, a practice that ensured that the administrative budget was 
always in balance. In FY 1984, for example, 20 percent of the 
administrative budget was covered by oil revenues. After the 
administrative budget had been balanced, the remaining oil revenue 
was used to fund the development budget. In practice, this system 
meant that, while allocations under the adminstrative budget were 
almost always assured of being funded, expenditures under the 
development budget could diverge greatly from planned levels 
depending upon variations in oil revenues. 

Although actual development budget expenditure data — as 
opposed to allocation data — are hard to come by, Central Bank 
figures for 1981 and 1982 indicated that the difference between 
planned and actual expenditures under the development budget 
could be quite large. For instance, in FY 1981 actual expenditures 
reached 96 percent of the planned levels, but in FY 1982 they only 
accounted for 62 percent of the official target. Thus, allocation 
figures for the development budget must be viewed with skepticism 


The Economy 

and, despite their impressive theoretical allocations, various devel- 
opment projects were often held up for lack of funds. 

The petroleum industry, through payments of taxes, royalties, 
profits, and fees, has accounted for as much as 80 percent of the 
government's revenues. The NOC has also paid royalties and taxes, 
and since 1974 its contributions have assumed greater importance 
as its production and exports have increased (see Hydrocarbons 
and Mining, this ch.). Royalties paid by the oil companies have 
been based on volume of production and a posted price. Taxes have 
been based on a theoretical profit determined by multiplying the 
export volume by the posted price and subtracting royalty payments 
and operating costs. The royalty and tax rates have periodically 
been revised upward or downward depending upon the world 
market. By law, 15 percent of the oil revenues must be set aside 
as reserves. 

Nonpetroleum revenues have consisted of profits from other 
government enterprises, import duties, income taxes, and miscel- 
laneous taxes and fees. In addition to the regular customs duties, 
two 5 -percent taxes have been levied on all imports, the funds being 
earmarked specifically for municipalities and for charities. Direct 
taxes — mostly income taxes — have brought in only about 5 per- 
cent of total revenue. All income was taxed, the rate depending 
on the source. In the late 1970s, there were separate taxes for income 
from rental property, agricultural activities, commerce, industry, 
and trades. There was also a professional income tax (the first year's 
earnings of a career were tax exempt), a personal income tax, and 
a general income tax, which was levied on all persons and compa- 
nies and included all income — even that subject to one of the spe- 
cial income taxes. The general income tax was very progressive 
and was designed to prevent capital accumulation. The tax brackets 
in effect in late 1976, for example, worked out so that a taxpayer 
with total income of LD192,000 would retain only LD72,000 and 
only 10 percent of all additional income over the LD 192, 000 level. 
In 1987 Libya's tax structure continued to be based on laws dat- 
ing from the 1970s or before. 

The administration of the tax structure was altered with the intro- 
duction of the Administrative Contracts Regulations in 1980 and 
Law No. 5 of 1981, which provided for some tax exemption for 
foreign companies. Until 1981, all private companies were sub- 
ject to a company tax, with petroleum companies subject to a spe- 
cial petroleum tax on their profits. Although in the past Libya had 
not appeared to encourage new foreign investment, a number of 
incentives in the form of tax exemptions were built into the 1981 
law to encourage such investments. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Balance of Payments 

The government's balance-of-payments statement, which has 
been prepared annually by the Central Bank, has provided a short- 
hand presentation of Libya's economic relations with the rest of 
the world. Although balance-of-payments statements generally may 
be arranged in different ways to meet different requirements, they 
frequently have been presented in terms of a current account that 
included the exchange of goods and services and transfers (dona- 
tions); a capital account that reflected movement of direct invest- 
ment, government borrowing and lending, and trade financing; 
and a reserves account showing whether monetary institutions have 
on balance acquired or paid out foreign currencies in the other 
accounts. The Libyan payments balance has been presented accord- 
ing to that formula (see table 8, Appendix). 

The balance-of-payments statements issued between 1960 and 
1977 spelled out in dramatic fashion Libya's meteoric transition 
from poverty to wealth. In 1960 exports (mostly agricultural) 
reached their then-customary total of less than the equivalent of 
US$10 million. Imports totaled US$177 million. The result was 
an unfavorable trade balance, to which was added a negative 
balance on the service account. The combination was barely off- 
set by a large item for oil company investment and by sizable grant 
aid from Britain, the UN, the United States, and Italy. Capital 
movements were minimally favorable on balance. 

By 1963 the payments picture was already changing rapidly. 
Although imports had increased appreciably, exports had out- 
stripped them, providing a solidly favorable trade balance for the 
first time in the country's history. Government services and invest- 
ment income (mainly oil company profits) were approximately in 
balance, but other services (mainly expenditures abroad by the oil 
companies connected with their Libyan operations) were increas- 
ing rapidly, and goods and services showed a small debit balance. 
This was just about offset by transfers (gifts and contributions from 
abroad), and the total current account was in balance. The capital 
account showed a credit, and the exchange reserves rose by US$27 

The upward trend continued throughout the 1970s except for 
1973, 1975, and 1978, when the overall balance of payments was 
in deficit. The balance of payments has been heavily dependent 
on oil exports and public sector imports, and in each of those three 
years increases in imports relative to exports pushed the overall 
balance into deficit. Nevertheless, Libya recorded its largest balance- 
of-payments surplus in 1980, when it reported a net gain in for- 
eign reserves of over US$6.7 billion. 


The Economy 

Since 1980, however, declining oil export revenues have pushed 
the overall balance into a sustained deficit, as net changes in reserves 
for 1981 through 1984 were all negative. In general, Libya's trade 
balance has remained solidly positive because oil revenues, even 
in the 1980s, have been sufficient to cover imports of merchan- 
dise. The principal drain on Libya's balance of payments and the 
source of much of its external payments difficulties during the early 
and mid-1980s have been the large deficits Libya has experienced 
in its trade in services. The major components of this "invisible 
trade" were payments to foreign consultants and contractors, as 
well as to the resident foreign workers in Libya, who customarily 
remitted large portions of their salaries to their home countries. 

In response to its deteriorating balance-of-payments situation in 
the 1980s, Libya has used several strategies. Foremost has been 
the drawing down on its substantial reserves of foreign exchange 
built up during the 1970s. Thus, other than for gold reserves (which 
have remained fairly stable), Libya's total foreign exchange reserves 
(including Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) — see Glossary, and its 
deposits with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — see Glos- 
sary) declined from US$13.1 billion in 1980 to US$9 billion in 1981, 
US$7 billion in 1982, US$5.2 billion in 1983, and US$3.6 billion 
in 1984. Despite this drastic decline, in 1984 Libya's reserves still 
afforded it an estimated 5.3 months of import coverage, a figure 
well above the average for comparable high-income oil exporters. 

Libya has also taken steps to reduce remittances by foreign 
workers. In the 1982-83 period, foreigners comprised about 47 per- 
cent of total productive manpower. In 1984, however, the govern- 
ment reduced from 90 to 75 percent the wages that foreign workers 
were permitted to repatriate. This action, combined with the wor- 
sening economic climate in Libya, sparked a flight of foreign 
workers. The total number dropped from 560,000 in 1983 to 
perhaps 300,000 in mid-1984. In 1985 the government resorted 
to coercion, forcibly expelling many remaining workers. In August 
and September, more than 30,000 Tunisians and about 20,000 
Egyptians were expelled. Smaller numbers of workers from 
Mauritania, Mali, and Niger were also forced to leave. By 1986 
further expulsions had dropped the number of foreigners working 
in Libya to fewer than 200,000. 

The final method used by the government to reduce its service 
trade deficit has been to delay payments to contractors and to induce 
them to accept barter arrangements. By late 1986, Libya had fallen 
more than US$2 billion behind in its payments to contractors. In 
an effort to meet its obligations without disbursing its valuable for- 
eign exchange, Libya has encouraged its creditors to accept oil 


Libya: A Country Study 

rather than hard currency in return for their services. Although 
many debts were settled this way from 1982 through 1985, the sharp 
drop in oil prices in early 1986 ended such arrangements. At that 
point, the Libyans refused to adjust their prices to world market 
levels — resulting in a 30-percent overvaluation of their oil in rela- 
tion to its price on the open market. 

Stringent exchange controls have been in effect since the 1969 
coup d'etat in an effort to stem capital outflows resulting from 
private sector pessimism about investment opportunities in an 
avowedly socialist-nationalist-revolutionary state. The exchange 
controls were administered by the Central Bank. Since 1979 almost 
all imports have been under the control of sixty-two public corpo- 
rations, and import licenses no longer have been issued to private 
companies. The only imports not directly under state control have 
been made by contractors, but all imports from Israel and South 
Africa have been prohibited. 

Since the 1969 coup, residents have been allowed specific amounts 
of foreign exchange each year for personal commitments abroad 
(excluding family remittances), foreign education, overseas travel 
(pilgrims to Mecca were allowed an additional sum), and business 
travel. In addition, the government specified that travel fares must 
be paid in Libyan currency. Temporary residents could take out 
no more foreign currency and travelers' checks than they had 
declared to customs officials on their entry into the country. 

For practical purposes, most gainfully employed nonresidents 
were allowed to maintain nonresident accounts in local banks into 
which could be deposited the compensation for their gainful employ- 
ment and interest accrued on such deposits. Withdrawals for remit- 
tance abroad might be drawn against such deposits up to 75 percent 
of net salary each month. Foreign contractors working in Libya 
under their own names had to maintain "special resident accounts," 
into which the funds with which they entered the country and the 
proceeds of their professional activities in Libya had to be deposited 
and against which withdrawals might be made with approval of 
the Central Bank. Profits and dividends could be transferred freely. 
Blocked accounts could be withdrawn for local or foreign use up 
to limited amounts during the first five years' duration of such 
account; after five years the deposit could be withdrawn in full. 

Foreign Aid and Investment 

Since 1985 direct foreign investment has not been permitted in 
Libya. Until 1984 Libya had had a negative direct investment 
balance for every year since 1971, indicating that Libyan invest- 
ment overseas far outstripped foreign investment in Libya. 


The Economy 

Existing foreign investment was concentrated in the petroleum sec- 
tor. In 1986 the United States ordered all American companies 
to liquidate their Libyan investments. It was not clear at that time, 
however, whether this action would result in a decline in the over- 
all level of foreign investment in Libya, or whether the affected 
companies would merely transfer their Libyan investments to non- 
American subsidiaries. 

Libyan investment abroad was made through the Libyan Arab 
Foreign Bank (LAFB) and the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment 
Company (LAFICO). Libyan investments have been particularly 
high in Italy, the best known being LAFICO 's 15 percent share 
in Fiat, which it finally sold in September 1986. Other significant 
Libyan investments in Italy have included the LAFB's 1986 
acquisition of 70 percent of the ailing Tamoil petroleum distribu- 
tion company and the acquisition of 50 percent of LAFICO' s Chem- 
petrol. Chempetrol supplied about half of Italy's methanol imports 
in 1986. Libyan assets in the United States were frozen in early 
1986, but the action had little impact because of the negligible funds 
involved. At the time of the freeze, the Central Bank held only 
about 10 percent of its assets in the United States. 

Libya has also given and received foreign aid. On the receipt 
side, Libya consistentiy has sought to barter oil for long-term tech- 
nical assistance agreements. During the 1970s, many cooperation 
agreements were conducted on this basis — particularly with East 
European nations. Yugoslavia, in particular, has been instrumental 
in providing Libya with timely aid. Yugoslav contractors were 
granted about 1 1 percent of the total volume of projects under the 
1976-80 development plan in return for oil and some Libyan financ- 
ing of several projects in Yugoslavia. In 1986, because of payment 
arrears on civil works contracts, Yugoslavia agreed to accept 
increased oil shipments valued at US$20 million. Much of Libya's 
debt for the military assistance it received from the Soviet Union 
has similarly been paid for with oil. In 1985 foreign observers esti- 
mated that Libya was sending 125,000 bpd of oil to Moscow to 
cover its arrears. 

By 1984 Libyan assistance to other countries had fallen dramat- 
ically from levels at the beginning of the decade. Libyan foreign 
aid allocations peaked in 1980 at US$376 million. They declined 
in 1981 to US$262 million before dropping sharply in 1982 to only 
US$43 million. A recovery occurred in 1983, as Libyan funds ear- 
marked for foreign aid rose again to US$142 million, only to plum- 
met in 1984 to US$17 million. This latter figure represented only 
.06 percent of GNP, well below the OPEC average for foreign 
assistance of 1.16 percent. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Libyan bilateral assistance programs have concentrated on coun- 
tries where Libya has substantial strategic interests. Many of these 
countries are located in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa. 
Throughout the 1970s, Libyan aid projects were mainly concen- 
trated in Chad, Mauritania, and Niger. Since 1980, with the general 
decline in foreign assistance allocations, promises of Libyan aid 
to sub-Saharan Africa have not always lived up to the expectations 
they created and have resulted in discontent on the part of recipient 

Banking, Credit, and Currency 

As a result of its World War II association, Libya became a mem- 
ber of the British sterling bloc when independence was established 
in 1951. Shortly after independence, a national currency was 
created: the Libyan pound, as it was then known, divided into 100 
piastres (of 10 milliemes each), having a par value of US$2.80. 
The currency unit remained tied to sterling until the sterling devalu- 
ation of November 1967, when the Libyan pound failed to devalue 
and the direct link with sterling was terminated. Libya continued 
as a member of the sterling bloc, however, until it was expelled 
by the British in the aftermath of the Libyan nationalization of Brit- 
ish Petroleum's assets in Libya in December 1971 (see Hydrocar- 
bons and Mining, this ch.). Effective September 1, 1971, the 
currency unit was changed from the Libyan pound to the Libyan 
dinar (LD), divided into 1,000 dirhams, with no change in its par 
value. In the late 1980s, the currency was still sometimes referred 
to as the pound, and merchants sometimes quoted prices in pias- 
tres. The new currency comes in banknotes of 250 and 500 dirhams 
and 1,5, and 10 dinars, as well as subsidiary coins of 1, 5, 10, 
20, 50, and 100 dirhams. 

In the general revaluation of gold, which also took place in 
December 1971, Libyan currency retained its existing parity with 
gold. As a consequence, the dollar value of the dinar rose from 
US$2.80 to US$3.04, where it was kept until 1974 when it moved 
to LD1 equal to US$3.3778. The dinar was maintained at this rate 
until March 1986, when the government switched from a fixed dol- 
lar rate to a floating rate linked to the SDR. This move resulted 
in a 10-percent decline in the value of the dinar. 

During the years immediately after independence, an interna- 
tional commission acted in lieu of a bank of issue, and the several 
currencies serving as legal tender in various parts of the country 
were replaced by the new Libyan currency. Pursuant to legisla- 
tion of 1955 (amended in 1958), the National Bank of Libya was 
established in 1956 to replace the commission and to perform some 


The Economy 

of the functions of a central bank under the aegis of the Ministry 
of Finance. The commercial banks for the most part were branches 
of major international banking institutions. In the main, they were 
engaged in providing short-term international and domestic com- 
mercial credit. 

In 1963 the Central Bank of Libya replaced the National Bank 
of Libya. The government gave the new bank sole right of cur- 
rency issue and made it responsible for maintaining monetary sta- 
bility and the external value of the Libyan currency and for 
regulating currency and credit. The bank could also make advances 
to the central government up to 10 percent of estimated current 
revenues. The commercial banks were required to maintain liquidity 
ratios and reserves in the Central Bank against deposits as prescribed 
by the Central Bank. Until 1970 the Central Bank also carried out 
commercial operations, but in that year the National Commercial 
Bank was founded to take over the commercial division of the Cen- 
tral Bank and the operations of two small foreign banks. 

The military government that took power in 1969 viewed the 
banking sector as a primary object of its general program of Libyani- 
zation. In November 1969, the new government required that all 
banks in the country be Libyan controlled, and it bought out the 
51 -percent control of the commercial banks that had not already 
converted to Libyan control. In July 1970, the government took 
100-percent control of four of the major banks with foreign minority 
ownership. In December 1970, the government purchased outright 
all banks that still had some foreign minority participation and, 
by a process of merging, reduced the number of commercial banks 
to five. Libyan citizens were permitted to purchase minority 
interests in the banks. 

In addition to the National Commercial Bank, commercial banks 
in operation in 1987 included the Jamahiriya Bank, known as the 
Jumhuriya Bank until its present name was adopted in 1977. It 
operated nearly thirty branches throughout the country. Other com- 
mercial banks included the Sahara Bank, formerly the Banco di 
Sicilia, and the Umma Bank, the successor to the Banco di Roma. 
The Wahda Bank was formed in 1970 from the merger of five other 

In addition to the state-owned commercial banks, Libya was 
home to the National Agricultural Bank, the Industrial and Real 
Estate Bank of Libya, LAFICO, and LAFB. The agricultural bank 
was a specialized institution established in 1957 to provide interest- 
free production loans to farmers. It also made medium-term loans 
for up to five years for machinery and materials and long-term loans 
for up to fifteen years for land reclamation projects, irrigation, and 


Libya: A Country Study 

agricultural construction. The agricultural bank purchased produce 
from farmers at a guaranteed profit and sold them supplies at sub- 
sidized prices. The bank has a good record; in the past, about 90 
percent of all loans have been repaid. 

The Industrial and Real Estate Bank of Libya was both a 
development bank, providing industrial credits, and a home finance 
agency, making housing loans. Most of its loans were for home 
purchases. LAFICO was created in 1972 as a joint effort of the 
five commercial banks, the insurance industry, and other govern- 
ment agencies to promote housing, industry, commerce, and 
tourism. It also made investments outside Libya. In early 1972, 
the government established LAFB as a wholly owned subsidiary 
of the Central Bank, but not subject to the Central Bank's legisla- 
tion, regulations, or exchange control. It engaged in financial and 
banking operations outside the country and acted as the foreign 
agent for the government and Libyan commercial banks. Its main 
purposes were to encourage regional development — particularly of 
countries friendly to Libya, to become active in international finan- 
cial markets, and to serve as a vehicle for Libyan assistance to other 
countries. By 1978 LAFB had set up a worldwide chain of eigh- 
teen subsidiaries and affiliates in which it held anywhere from 7 
to 51 percent of the equity. In 1985 LAFB had total worldwide 
assets of US$2.9 billion. 

The insurance industry was also nationalized. In December 1970, 
insurance companies were required to have 60-percent government 
participation, and in 1971 they were totally taken over and merged 
into two companies. Credit has generally been plentiful, although 
the Central Bank's credit policy was to support the government's 
development effort. This meant that at times, such as in 1977, the 
Central Bank limited credit to the private sector and directed it 
instead to state entities. This has also been done to halt the rapid 
growth in the money supply and the inflationary rate. The largest 
percentage of loans made by the banking system has been for hous- 
ing and commerce. In 1975 the government declared interest to 
be usury and prohibited it, but commissions for services rendered 
remained legal, and banks could charge commissions. Such com- 
missions generally have been kept low on items such as construc- 
tion loans. In practice, Libyan banks still charged interest on loans 
and paid interest on deposits. In 1985 the prime lending rate stood 
at 7.5 percent, while deposit and lending rates were set at 5.5 and 
7.0 percent, respectively. 

Foreign Trade 

By the mid-1980s, the government conducted virtually all for- 
eign trade either directly or through public corporations. Import 


The Economy 

licenses were no longer issued to the private, sector. The foreign 
exchange needed to purchase imports has been allocated by the 
commodity budget since its inception in 1982. Exports consisted 
almost entirely of hydrocarbons. Between 1978 and 1985, crude 
oil exports accounted for between 85 to 99 percent of total annual 
exports. Exports of other hydrocarbons, mainly methanol and 
liquefied natural gas, were irregular and depended on bilateral sup- 
ply agreements of limited duration. 

The balance of trade has consistently been in Libya's favor since 
1963, when oil exports first reached significant levels. Whereas dur- 
ing the 1970s exports kept ahead of imports by a wide margin, since 
1981 this has not been true. For example, during 1982 Libya's trade 
balance showed a surplus of only LD2 billion, the smallest surplus 
since the mid-1960s. Only a drastic cut in imports kept the trade 
balance as a surplus after 1981. In 1985 exports stood at LD3.2 
billion, while imports totaled LD1.4 billion. 

The decline in Libya's trade position after 1981 was largely the 
result of falling oil prices and decreasing volumes of oil exports. 
The oil price decline resulted from factors beyond Libya's control, 
but much of the decline in export volume resulted from Libya's 
decision to stay generally within its OPEC production quotas. These 
quotas were reduced in the early and mid-1980s as OPEC tried 
to use its market power to reverse the falling price trend. 

The composition of imports was more varied than that of exports. 
Figures for 1981 indicated that the largest percentage of imports, 
by value, was the category of machinery and transport equipment. 
Manufactured goods, principally metal manufactures and iron and 
steel, came second, followed by foodstuffs. The percentage of food- 
stuffs in the import bill has been rising steadily since disposable 
incomes began rising. 

The direction of trade has undergone a significant change since 
the mid-1970s (see table 9, Appendix). Whereas during much of 
the mid- to late- 1970s the United States was Libya's leading export 
market, American trade restrictions had reduced Libya's trade with 
the United States to zero by 1983. Italy remained Libya's most 
important trading partner in the mid-1980s, followed by the Fed- 
eral Republic of Germany (West Germany). These two countries 
together supplied about 30 percent of Libya's imports and bought 
slightly under 50 percent of its exports in 1984. 

Domestic Trade and Tourism 

The development of internal trade has been severely restricted 
by government actions during the late 1970s that were aimed at 
curbing the activities of private sector merchants (see Role of the 


Libya: A Country Study 

Government, this ch.). In general, domestic trade remained in a 
state of limbo in the mid-1980s. Government policy was extremely 
hostile to private trade, but because of declining oil revenues the 
government was unable to keep up with the demand for most goods, 
subsidized or not. Reports that the state-run supermarkets were 
experiencing supply problems proliferated during 1985 and 1986. 
Shopping was said to be a major daily activity that demanded time 
and perseverance. The confusion reigning in the retail sector in 
1985 pushed the government to announce the opening of yet another 
chain of state-run shops — the " green market" (as suq alkhadhra) — to 
sell subsidized goods. It was unclear, however, how much of a force 
these shops would be, or whether they would receive the funds 
necessary to sell goods at subsidized prices. 

Beyond the urban areas, rural markets were held every Tues- 
day and Friday. Most farmers bought and sold in local markets, 
rarely traveling to distant ones. Although Libya officially adhered 
to the metric system, everyday practice continued to favor Arabic 
measures. A common measure used in wholesale trade was the 
marta, equivalent to about sixteen kilograms. 

The government's imprint on other areas of domestic trade was 
strong. Storage facilities for agricultural commodities and general 
goods, including perishables, were provided by a state-owned 
storage and refrigeration company. Moreover, all advertising was 
done through the only advertising firm in the country, the 
government-owned General Company for Distribution, Publica- 
tion, and Advertisement. 

A potential source of income for Libya is tourism. Libya's warm 
and pleasant climate in coastal areas, together with the presence 
of a large number of Greek and Roman ruins (particularly at Leptis 
Magna or Labdah, east of Tripoli), would seem to indicate at least 
a modest potential for tourist development. In April 1972, however, 
Qadhafi publicly declared that he opposed public investment in 
the tourist industry. Despite this pronouncement, by the late 1970s 
several tourist complexes were planned both on the coast and in 
the interior. The number of tourists visiting Libya at that time was 
in the 300,000 a year range. Most came from other Arab coun- 
tries. Because of the prohibitions against alcohol, the lack of night- 
life, and the strained political climate, foreign observers doubted 
that the tourist industry would expand. 

Transportation and Telecommunications 

Although the transportation and communications sector was a 
relatively unimportant contributor to GDP (5.2 percent in 1984), 
it absorbed a large share of the annual development budgets. In 


The Economy 

1982 actual expenditure on transportation and communications 
(including shipping) comprised 17.5 percent of total development 
budget expenditure. Much of this expenditure was oil- sector- related 
in that it was designed to lessen oil transport costs and to facilitate 
access to hydrocarbon development sites. 


Libya's transportation network has been considerably expanded 
since 1978 (see fig. 10). At that time, Libya had only about 8,800 
kilometers of roads, of which perhaps one-half were paved. How- 
ever, by 1985 Libya possessed between 23,000 and 25,600 kilo- 
meters of paved roads. Surfaced roads existed between the north 
and the southern oases of Al Kufrah, Marzuq, and Sabha. These 
roads have done much to end the isolation of these remote settle- 
ments. In particular, the agricultural projects underway in the desert 
oases have benefited from the more efficient crop marketing made 
possible by these roads. The National General Company for Roads 
oversaw all new construction and maintenance. 

The number of vehicles in Libya steadily increased in the 1970s 
and early 1980s. By 1985 there were 313,0(X) automobiles and trucks 
in the country, as well as about 70,000 buses. The ratio of automo- 
bile ownership to population was on a par with that of many West 
European countries. Urban and interurban bus routes were main- 
tained by the state-owned General Corporation for Public Trans- 

As of 1985, Libya had no railroads; however, discussions had 
been held with China over the possibility of technical assistance 
in railway construction. Plans existed for a possible rail link between 
the Tunisian rail system and Tripoli. Another possible project 
envisioned transporting iron-ore deposits in the Fezzan to the Mis- 
ratah iron and steel works via rail. Given Libya's financial con- 
straints in the mid-1980s, however, prospects for these projects were 
not bright. 

Libya has had a long history of port congestion. In 1977 the aver- 
age waiting time for ships to be unloaded in Tripoli harbor was 
twenty-four days. Consequentiy, since the mid-1970s, port improve- 
ments have been a top priority for the government. These improve- 
ments raised Libya's total dry cargo handling capacity from 10.5 
million tons in 1976 to 13.7 million tons in 1980. In 1985 major 
cargo-handling ports were located at Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, 
and Qasr Ahmad (near Misratah). Projects underway at Tripoli 
in 1985 were designed to raise the port's handling capacity to 12.5 
million tons a year. Similar construction projects at the Benghazi 
port envisioned expanding its capacity to 3.5 million tons a year. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Figure 10. Transportation System, 1985 


The Economy 


Libya: A Country Study 

Qasr Ahmad was equipped to handle about 1.5 million tons a year. 
Plans for a new port facility also were being formulated in 1985 
to provide logistical support to the Bouri offshore oil field, which 
was then coming into production. 

In the mid-1970s, Libya embarked on an ambitious program 
of ship acquisition to build up its merchant fleet. However, it failed 
to take into account world competition and, by 1977, as much as 
70 percent of its total tonnage was idle — the largest such propor- 
tion in the world at that time. Libya has since sold a number of 
its tankers and in 1985 owned fourteen oil tankers and eighteen 
cargo ships. 

Civil aviation in Libya in 1987 was the responsibility of the 
Secretariat of Communications, which operated all airports, and 
the Civil Aviation Institute, which trained all personnel. The three 
international airports in 1985 were located at Tripoli (Al Aziziyah), 
Benghazi (Benina), and Sabha. Smaller airfields were located at 
Marsa al Burayqah, Tobruk, Ghat, Ghadamis, Al Kufrah, and 
several other locations. Most civil air personnel went abroad for 
training. Britain suspended its air traffic control training program 
for Libyans in 1985, but Pakistan subsequently agreed to train about 
seventy-eight Libyan air-traffic controllers. 

The national air carrier, Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), was na- 
tionalized in 1973. Possessing only a dozen aircraft in 1977, it grew 
rapidly, expanding its fleet to twenty-five aircraft in 1985. The main 
aircraft in service were manufactured by Boeing, Hawker Siddeley, 
Caravelle, and Fokker. In 1980, LAA carried 1.17 million pas- 
sengers. A new carrier called United African Airlines (UAA) was 
created in 1985 in association with LAA. 


In 1987 Libya had a modern telecommunications system that 
provided high-quality service between the country's main popula- 
tion centers. All telecommunications activities were carried out by 
the General Post, Telephone, and Telegraph Organization, a sub- 
sidiary of the Secretariat of Communications. In 1975 a micro- 
wave system connecting radio, telephone, and television signals 
along the coast was established; it was superseded in 1985 by a 
US$25 million high-capacity cable system and a submarine cable 
that linked the whole coastal strip with parts of the south all the 
way to the Chadian border. The transmission systems included 
microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, submarine cable, tropospheric 
scatter, and satellites. The system was capable of serving approxi- 
mately 10 million telephone subscribers, including those along the 
densely populated Mediterranean coast. 


The Economy 

Telecommunications in Libya were greatly improved in the late 
1970s and early 1980s. The interior of the country was served by 
various systems. Radio relay and coaxial cable extended to numer- 
ous points and a domestic satellite system was constructed to serve 
areas not fully integrated into the ground-based networks. The num- 
ber of telephone lines increased from 90,000 in 1978 to 215,000 
in 1985 — an average of 1 telephone for every 100 citizens. Switch- 
ing was predominantly automatic. 

International telecommunications links, like the domestic routes, 
were linked via multiple transmission systems. Submarine cables 
extended from Tripoli to Marseilles, France, and Catania, Italy, 
providing telephone and telegraph circuits between Libya and 
Western Europe. A satellite ground-station complex located 
near Tripoli operated through the Atlantic Ocean and Indian 
Ocean satellites of the International Telecommunications Satel- 
lite (INTELSAT) Organization. Additionally, Libya was a mem- 
ber of the regional Arab Satellite (ARABSAT) Organization. 

Radio broadcast transmissions were made by five high-power 
and numerous low-power AM stations for domestic service and 
by a high-power transmitter located at Sabratah, near Tripoli, for 
international shortwave service. FM broadcasting was expanded 
to reach most of the country. 

* * * 

Many studies on the economy of Libya since the revolution tend 
to emphasize the political aspects of Libyan economic policy, giv- 
ing scant attention to the economic ramifications of governmental 
policy choices. A major exception to this rule are the works of J. A. 
Allan, who has written several excellent analytical pieces on the 
Libyan economy. Allan's Libya, the Experience of Oil remains the prin- 
cipal source on the economy before 1980. Allan presents a useful 
summary of the problems facing Libyan agriculture in his chapter 
"Capital Has Not Substituted for Water in Agriculture," to be 
found in J. A. Allan (ed.), Libya Since Independence. Another good 
summary of the economy can be found in the chapter by Stace Birks 
and Clive Sinclair in Richard Lawless and Allan Findlay (eds.), 
North Africa. In addition to these analytical works, much informa- 
tion can be culled from the Economist Intelligence Unit's Quarterly 
Economic Review series on Libya, various issues of Middle East Eco- 
nomic Digest, and Africa Research Bulletin. The best source of govern- 
ment statistics is the Central Bank of Libya, Annual Report series, 
for various years. (For complete citations and further information, 
see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 4. Government and Politics 

The national emblem of Libya 

SWEEPING AND FUNDAMENTAL changes were introduced 
in Libya after Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi and his Free Officers 
Movement overthrew the Sanusi monarchy on September 1, 1969, 
and proclaimed the "Green Revolution." Because of the many 
radical and experimental policies that Qadhafi has tried to imple- 
ment in Libya, he has been described frequently as a mercurial 
and quixotic leader. But while Qadhafi' s policy making has been 
unpredictable, it has not been random or capricious. Rather, Qa- 
hafi's political behavior has been dictated by his own elaborate and 
evolving normative political ideology, which he set forth in his three- 
volume The Green Book. 

The essence of Qadhafi 's philosophy is the Third Universal The- 
ory, so-called because it is intended to be an alternative to capital- 
ism and Marxism. The theory calls for the institution in Libya of 
what Qadhafi calls "direct democracy." In a direct democracy, 
as envisaged by Qadhafi, citizens govern themselves through grass- 
roots activism without the mediation or intervention of state insti- 
tutions or other organizational hierarchies in the military, tribes, 
ulama, or intelligentsia. In an effort to implement direct democracy, 
Qadhafi altered or dismantled governmental and social structures. 
He launched a Cultural Revolution in 1973, instituted "people's 
power" in 1975, and proclaimed that Libya was a "state of the 
masses" in 1977. Finally, to emphasize his policy of decentraliza- 
tion, Qadhafi relinquished his own formal governmental position 
in 1979 and insisted he be referred to simply as "Leader of the 

The striking innovation in the Libyan political system since Qa- 
dhafi came to power resulted from his desire to replace subnation- 
al traditional leaders with administrators with the skills needed to 
modernize the country. The changes were also ostensibly intended 
to foster egalitarianism, mass mobilization, revolutionary commit- 
ment, public participation, and self-determination among Libyan 
citizens. From a pragmatic perspective, however, the changes served 
primarily to undermine the authority of traditional or alternate elite 
groups that posed a potential challenge to Qadhafi 's leadership. 

It is ironic, then, that the changes intended to enfranchise the 
citizenry have instead served primarily to bolster Qadhafi 's per- 
sonal power by diminishing governmental checks and balances on 
his executive power and eliminating all other power bases. In 
1987 there was little doubt that Qadhafi remained the country's 


Libya: A Country Study 

strongman, the fulcrum of power, and the single most important 
figure in Libya. 

Although Qadhafi in theory advocated dismantling the struc- 
ture of government, in reality Libya in 1987 had an elaborate and 
complex bureaucratic structure because the new organizations Qa- 
dhafi created had been superimposed upon existing institutions. 
In 1987 the primary formal instrument of government was the 
General People's Congress (GPC), both an executive and legisla- 
tive body, which convened three times annually. The GPC was 
headed by a small General Secretariat composed primarily of mem- 
bers of the former Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which 
was abolished in 1977. A General People's Committee performed 
the function of a cabinet, replacing the old Council of Ministers. 
Subnational representation and participation were accomplished 
through four roughly parallel and overlapping structures: people's 
committees that were organized at the basic (urban ward or rural 
village) and municipal levels; Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the only 
authorized political mass organization; Basic Popular Congress 
(BPC); and revolutionary committees (see Glossary), organized both 
geographically and functionally. The lines of authority and respon- 
sibility among these four bodies were unclear, which occasionally 
caused intense competition and rivalry within the government. 
Moreover, in 1987 there were indications that Qadhafi intended 
to introduce a fifth similar organizational structure in the form of 
a new political party. 

On the international level, Libya sought to foster pan-Arabism 
and Islamic and Third World solidarity. Initially, Libya advocated 
positive neutrality, but, for pragmatic reasons, soon gravitated 
toward a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Concurrently, 
Libya's interpretation of the North-South dimension of global 
politics emphasized the division between industrialized, resource- 
consuming nations and underdeveloped resource producers, a 
division that, in Qadhafi' s view, overshadowed the East-West 
dichotomy. Libya under Qadhafi played a leading role in the efforts 
among producing countries to gain full control of petroleum produc- 
tion and to use that production for internal development and as 
a political weapon with which to reward friendly nations and pun- 
ish opponents. 

Qadhafi is hostile toward the United States and other Western 
countries because these countries generally support Israel. Because 
of its anti-Western stance, the Libyan regime gained a reputation 
for conducting unconventional, belligerent, and aggressive foreign 
relations. There were frequent and widespread allegations that 
Libya sponsored transnational terrorist activities, supported dozens 


Government and Politics 

of insurrectionary movements worldwide, and assassinated exiled 
opponents. Just as Libya's domestic policies had resulted in a sit- 
uation contrary to what Qadhafi claimed he desired, so too had 
its foreign policy. Qadhafi 's maverick foreign policy not only 
angered Western countries, but it also alienated many of Libya's 
erstwhile or potential allies in the Third World that were the 
intended audience of the Third Universal Theory. 

Because of the precipitous decline of the oil revenues that had 
funded Qadhafi 's foreign and domestic policies, the dizzying pace 
of internal change, and the country's image as an international 
pariah, the regime's viability and durability were questioned. 
Nevertheless, in late 1987, most foreign observers doubted that a 
coup d'etat was imminent. 

Internal Politics 

Until 1951 Libya was under foreign domination. In November 
1949 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly passed a resolu- 
tion calling for the establishment of a sovereign Libyan state com- 
prising three historically diverse regions: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, 
and Fezzan. The UN commissioner for Libya, Adrian Pelt, sug- 
gested the formation of a preparatory committee of twenty-one Lib- 
yans (seven from each region) to initiate the framing of a 
constitution. The committee created the National Constituent 
Assembly, which first met in November 1950 and subsequently 
formed committees to draft a constitution. On October 7, 1951, 
the new constitution was promulgated, and on December 24, King 
Idris proclaimed Libya's sovereignty and independence (see The 
United Nations and Libya, ch. 1). 

The constitution established Libya as a monarchy; succession 
was to pass to Idris 's designated heirs. Because of its histori- 
cally distinct regions, the new country was organized as a federa- 
tion, each region becoming a province and maintaining its own 
autonomous administration and legislature. Benghazi and Tripoli 
alternated as the federation's capital. As do many European par- 
liamentary systems, the constitution provided for an executive 
branch — the Council of Ministers (or cabinet) — headed by a 
minister and responsible to the lower house, or Chamber of 
Deputies, of the bicameral legislature. The number of deputies was 
55, later increased to 103. The upper house, or Senate, comprised 
twenty-four members, eight from each province. The king held 
considerable executive authority; he formally appointed the Coun- 
cil of Ministers and half of the senators and had the right to veto 
legislation and dissolve the lower house (see Independent Libya, 
ch. 1). 


Libya: A Country Study 

The king endorsed legislation, passed in April 1963, that pro- 
duced a major constitutional revision; the federal form was replaced 
by a unitary structure that emphasized centralized national author- 
ity. Provincial boundaries were erased, and ten smaller governorates 
(muhafazat; sing., muhafazah) were created, each headed by a gover- 
nor appointed by the central government. The constitution was 
also modified to provide for the extension of suffrage to women 
and for the royal appointment of all senators. Also, whereas the 
1951 constitution had vested sovereignty in the nation and declared 
the nation to be the source of all power, the 1963 revision proclaimed 
that sovereignty belonged only to God (Allah) and that it was given 
as a sacred trust to the state, which was the source of all power. 

The 1951 constitution, as amended in 1963, remained in effect 
until September 1, 1969. At that time a group of military officers 
and men headed by Captain (later Colonel) Qadhafi overthrew the 
monarchy and proclaimed a republic instead (see The September 
1969 Coup, ch. 1). The supreme organ of the Revolutionary 
regime, the RCC, replaced the existing constitution with the Con- 
stitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969, which was to be 
superseded by a new constitution at some future, unspecified date. 
Meanwhile, existing laws, decrees, and regulations not in conflict 
with the December proclamation remained in effect. The procla- 
mation confirmed the RCC as the supreme authority, officially re- 
named the country the Libyan Arab Republic, and provided for 
a system of government (see National Executive and Legislative 
Evolution, this ch.). It vested sovereignty in the people, made Islam 
the state religion, and declared Arabic the official language. Edu- 
cation and health care were specified as constitutional rights. 

The December 1969 proclamation declared the Libyan people 
to be part of the Arab nation, dedicated to "the realization of 
socialism through the application of social justice which forbids any 
form of exploitation . . . [The state's] aim is to eliminate peace- 
fully the disparities between social class[es]." Furthermore, the 1969 
proclamation charged the state with endeavoring "to liberate the 
national economy from dependence and foreign influence." Pub- 
lic ownership was proclaimed the basis of social development and 
self-sufficient productivity, but nonexploitive private property would 
be protected, and inheritance would be governed by the Islamic 
sharia (see Glossary). Freedom of opinion was guaranteed "within 
the limits of public interest and the principles of the Revolution." 

On the same day that the RCC issued the December 1969 procla- 
mation, it also issued the Decision on the Protection of the Revo- 
lution. The decision established the death penalty for anyone 
attempting to overthrow the Revolutionary regime and stipulated 


Government and Politics 

imprisonment for "anyone who commits an act of aggression" 
against the new government. Aggressive acts were defined as 
propagandizing against the regime, arousing class hatred among 
the people, spreading false rumors about political and economic 
conditions in the country, and demonstrating or striking against 
the government. 

On March 2, 1977, in a novel approach to democratic govern- 
ment, Libya adopted a provision known as the Declaration of the 
Establishment of the People's Authority. The declaration changed 
the official name of the country to the Socialist People's Libyan 
Arab Jamahiriya (sometimes seen as Jamahiriyah). The word 
jamahiriya is derived from the Arabic word "jamahir," meaning 
"masses." Qadhafi coined the word jamahiriya; it has no official 
translation but unofficially has been translated as a "state of the 
masses," "people's authority," or "people's power." According 
to Qadhafi, the jamahiriya system was to be "a state run by the peo- 
ple without a government," and it heralded the dawn of a new, 
more advanced stage in humanity's political evolution, just as the 
phase of republics represented an advancement over the age of 

National Executive and Legislative Evolution 

The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) 

The Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969, desig- 
nated the RCC as the supreme executive and legislative authority 
in Libya. The RCC itself was a collegial body in which issues and 
policies were debated until enough consensus developed to estab- 
lish a unified position. As the RCC's chairman, however, Qadhafi 
was the dominant figure in the Revolutionary government. 
Although he lacked absolute authority to impose his will on his RCC 
colleagues, they generally deferred to him as the primary leader 
and spokesman. 

The RCC appointed the members of the Council of Ministers. 
The Council of Ministers was responsible collectively to the RCC, 
which could dismiss the prime minister individually or accept the 
resignation of other ministers. The prime minister's resignation 
automatically caused the resignation of the entire Council of Min- 
isters. The Council of Ministers also was charged with executing 
general policy in accordance with RCC decisions. When these 
decisions required new laws, the Council of Ministers drafted legis- 
lation for the RCC's consideration. Promulgation was by RCC 


Libya: A Country Study 

After 1969 numerous cabinet shuffles occurred, sometimes in 
reaction to dissension within the Council of Ministers and threats 
against the RCC and at other times in attempts to balance or modify 
the mix of civilian and military members of the cabinet. Qadhafi 
became prime minister in January 1970, but by 1972 he increas- 
ingly left routine administrative tasks to another RCC member, 
Major Abdel Salaam Jallud (also seen as Jalloud), in order to devote 
himself to revolutionary theory (see Political Ideology, this ch.). 
In July 1972, Jallud assumed the position of prime minister. At 
the time there was speculation in the foreign press that the new 
Council of Ministers' composition indicated dissension within the 
RCC and the diminishing of Qadhafi' s authority; these notions 
proved erroneous, however, at least regarding the latter point. Qa- 
dhafi retained the positions of chairman of the RCC, commander 
in chief of the armed forces, and president of the mass political 
organization, the ASU, and he personally administered the oath 
of office to Jallud. 

Qadhafi' s continuing dedication to revolutionary theorizing led 
to an April 1974 decree relieving him of his other political, adminis- 
trative, and protocol duties so that he might devote all of his time 
to his primary interest. Jallud assumed the functions Qadhafi relin- 
quished; he had already been performing many of them unoffi- 
cially. Despite the fact that Qadhafi retained the position of 
commander in chief of the armed forces, speculation again arose 
that his power and authority were waning. Instead, the RCC decree 
appeared only to have formalized a division of labor between Qa- 
dhafi 's theoretical interests and Jallud 's practical political and 
administrative interests — a division that had existed informally for 
some time. 

The General People's Congress 

The executive system comprising the RCC and the Council of 
Ministers continued to operate into 1977, with occasional cabinet 
shuffles. In late 1976, Qadhafi emerged from relative isolation to 
resume leadership of the RCC. On the seventh anniversary of the 
Revolution, September 1, 1976, Qadhafi introduced a plan to reor- 
ganize the Libyan state. The plan's primary feature was a proposal 
that a new representative body (the GPC) replace the RCC as the 
supreme instrument of government. A five-member General Secre- 
tariat was created to stand at the apex of the CjPC. The details 
of the plan were included in the draft Declaration of the Establish- 
ment of the People's Authority, adopted by the GPC in extraordi- 
nary session on March 2, 1977. The declaration included several 
basic points: the change in the country's name to the Socialist 


Government and Politics 

People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the establishment of popular 
direct authority through a system culminating in the GPC, and 
the assignment of responsibility for defending the homeland to every 
man and woman through general military training. 

The GPC also adopted resolutions that designated Qadhafi as 
its secretary general; created the General Secretariat of the GPC, 
which comprised the remaining members of the defunct RCC; and 
appointed the General People's Committee, which replaced the 
Council of Ministers, its members now called secretaries rather than 
ministers (see fig. 11). For symbolic reasons, initially no secretary 
of defense was appointed within the General People's Committee, 
defense having become the responsibility of all citizens. 

Since its formation the GPC has met in ordinary session annu- 
ally, usually for about two weeks in November or December. 
Delegates numbered over 1,000, somewhat more than 60 percent 
of whom were leaders of the ASU basic and municipal popular con- 
gresses (see Subnational Government and Administration, this ch.). 
Other delegates included the members of the General Secretariat 
of the GPC and the General People's Committee, leaders of the 
geographically based zone and municipal people's committees, and 
representatives from functionally based organizations. 

With the RCC and the Council of Ministers abolished, all 
executive and legislative authority technically was vested in the 
GPC. The GPC, however, formally delegated most of its impor- 
tant authority to its general secretary and General Secretariat and 
to the General People's Committee. In its December 1978 session, 
the GPC authorized the General People's Committee to appoint 
ambassadors, and the secretary of foreign affairs was authorized 
to receive the credentials of foreign diplomats. The General Peo- 
ple's Committee, in accordance with conditions established at the 
GPC's December 1978 session and on recommendation of the secre- 
tary of the Internal Security Authority, awards and cancels 
Libyan citizenship. The GPC retains the power to select the presi- 
dent and judges of the Supreme Court, the governor and deputy 
governor of the Central Bank of Libya, the attorney general, and 
other high officials. The suggestions and advice of the GPC General 
Secretariat and the General People's Committee probably are deci- 
sive regarding such appointments, however. The General Secre- 
tariat appoints the members of the General People's Committee. 

The GPC has the formal power to declare war, ratify treaties 
with other countries, and consider general policy plans and their 
implementation. In these and other functions, however, it is again 
subject to the advice of the General People's Committee and the 
supervision of the general secretary and General Secretariat, which 


Libya: A Country Study 

make the final decisions. Yet it would be inaccurate to dismiss the 
GPC as a mere rubber stamp. It has functioned as a clearinghouse 
and sounding board, receiving the views of the masses (through 
lower level representative congresses, committees, and functional 
organizations) and transmitting them to the General Secretariat 
and General People's Committee. Conversely, it transmits the deci- 
sions of the national leadership to the masses, encouraging mass 
participation in the political system and lending legitimacy to Gen- 
eral Secretariat decisions and policies through advice and formal 
approval. Qadhafi served as secretary general of the GPC until 
March 1979, at which time he once again formally resigned from 
all his positions to devote himself to revolutionary action and, in 
his words, to ensure the "separation of the state from the Revo- 

Subnational Government and Administration 

Because of continuing historical and tribal divisiveness, the fed- 
eration was replaced with a unitary system in 1963, and the three 
subnational provinces were replaced by ten governorates (see fig. 1). 
The governorates were subdivided into districts (mutasarrifiyat\ sing. , 
mutasarrifiyah) , each of which was further subdivided into subdis- 
tricts (mudiriyat; sing., mudiriyah). Executive heads of these geo- 
graphical units included the governor (muhaafiz), district chief 
(mutasarrif) , and subdistrict chief (mudir), respectively. Large cities, 
such as Tripoli and Benghazi, were organized as municipalities, 
headed by mayors, and subdivided into wards. 

All subnational executive administrators were appointed by royal 
authority on recommendation of the minister of interior and 
approved by the Council of Ministers. Their appointment fre- 
quently was based on tribal and subtribal considerations as well 
as family prestige derived from the family's historical importance, 
religious standing and leadership, and wealth. Thus, much of the 
historical divisiveness that the switch from a federal to a unitary 
system was designed to overcome was perpetuated in the frequent 
appointment of members of regional and local elite families as sub- 
national administrators. 

Interested in minimizing tribal and regional differences and in 
encouraging mass participation in the political system, the RCC 
began modifying the subnational government structure soon after 
the 1969 Revolution. Laws implemented in 1970 and 1971 estab- 
lished the Ministry of Local Government (which assumed some 
of the duties formerly exercised by the Ministry of Interior), gave 
local authorities more power to implement policies of the central 
(national) government, and redesignated some of the names and 


Government and Politics 

boundaries of the ten governorates. Selection of chief executives 
in the governorates, districts, subdistricts, and municipalities 
remained within the purview of the central government, appoint- 
ments being made by the RCC on the recommendation of the 
minister of interior. Lower level administrators were required to 
meet standardized civil service qualifications. 

For the most part, subnational government continued to func- 
tion as a hierarchical system of administrative links with the cen- 
tral government rather than as a vehicle for popular representation 
or participation. The RCC as a whole and Qadhafi in particular 
remained highly critical of inefficient bureaucracy, the lack of com- 
mitment to the Revolution displayed by many civil servants and 
other subnational government functionaries, and the reluctance or 
inability of the population to participate in the political system. 
Between 1971 and 1987, subnational government and administra- 
tion were developed in five major stages in order to correct these 

The Arab Socialist Union 

The 1971 creation of the ASU, an imitation of the Egyptian coun- 
terpart of the same name, marked the first stage in the drive to 
modify subnational government. The ASU was envisioned as the 
direct link between the people and the government (and particu- 
larly the RCC). Its purpose was to provide the masses with a sys- 
tem that allowed for participation and representation (thus fostering 
national unity), commitment to the Revolution, and loyalty to the 
RCC) but that could be carefully directed by the RCC. Resolu- 
tions passed by ASU organs required RCC decrees or orders for 
implementation, and the RCC could annul any ASU decision at 
any level and dissolve any ASU organ. As chairman of the RCC, 
Qadhafi became president of the ASU. 

The ASU was organized on three tiers: at the basic (or local) 
level, the governorate level, and the national level. Membership 
was based on both geography (or residence) and function (work 
places, universities, and government bureaucracies). ASU units 
at both the basic and governorate level were composed of two ele- 
ments, the conference and the committee. All local and functional 
ASU members within a basic area constituted the Basic Confer- 
ence. The Basic Committee, which functioned as the conference's 
executive, comprised ten members elected by and from the con- 
ference. The committee in turn elected its own secretariat and 
appointed special subcommittees to investigate matters and sug- 
gest policies of local interest. The Governorate Conference con- 
sisted of two or more representatives elected from each basic unit, 


Libya: A Country Study 

the number of representatives depending on the size of the basic 
unit's membership. The Governorate Committee consisted of 
twenty members elected by and from conference members. The 
committee also elected its secretariat and appointed research sub- 
committees. ASU university units were equivalent to, and organized 
in the same manner as, ASU governorate units. 

The ASU unit at the national level was the National Congress 
(sometimes seen as National Conference), an early version of the 
GPC. It comprised ten, fourteen, or twenty representatives from 
each ASU governorate unit (depending on the size of the mem- 
bership of that unit). The National Congress also included mem- 
bers of the RCC and Council of Ministers and delegates from 
functional organizations. 

From its inception, Libyan officials stressed that the ASU was 
not a political party; rather, it was a mass organization that formed 
an activist alliance comprising members of various social forces 
within the population (laborers, farmers, soldiers, women, and so 
forth) that were committed to the principles of the Revolution. 
Emphasis was placed on "toilers," or workers — initially farmers 
and laborers — who were to constitute at least half of the member- 
ship of all ASU units at all levels. The worker category was later 
expanded to include — along with farmers and laborers — profes- 
sionals, artisans, employees, traders, and students. Intellectuals and 
nonexploitive capitalists were considered workers at one time but 
were later excluded. Membership in the ASU was open to anyone 
from the worker categories who was over eighteen years of age, 
in good legal standing, of sound mental health, and not a member 
of the former royal family or associated with the defunct monar- 
chical government. Exceptions in these cases could be granted by 
the RCC. By the time of the first ASU National Congress in 1972, 
membership was reported to include over 300,000 of some 1 mil- 
lion eligible persons. 

A second stage in subnational government revision occurred with 
the passage of several laws in 1972. Through these laws the dis- 
tricts and subdistricts were abolished, reducing administrative sub- 
divisions to the governorate and the municipality. (Municipalities 
could be subdivided into branches and other units, but these were 
secondary, created only when needed on a municipal council's 
recommendation to the prime minister.) Certain ministerial pre- 
rogatives in administration, finance, and local civil service mat- 
ters were transferred to the governors and mayors. The functions 
of the Ministry of Municipalities were reabsorbed by the Ministry 
of Interior, and the prime minister supervised a system of represen- 
tative councils at the governorate and municipal levels, councils 
that were influenced significantly by the ASU. 


A busy street in Benghazi 
Courtesy Keith Daber 

Governorate and municipal councils were concerned primarily 
with implementing national policies and drafting plans and regu- 
lations pertaining to the provision of regular and emergency health, 
education, social welfare, and transportation services, as well as 
with undertaking development and agricultural improvement 
projects. A governorate had primary authority over these functions 
when they crossed municipal boundaries. 

Governorate councils comprised both appointed and elected seats. 
The prime minister appointed ASU members, upon the governor's 
advice and the ASU's recommendation, to fill ten seats. The popu- 
lar elections to fill the other seats were supervised by the ASU. 
The councils also included the area directors of health, education, 
and other services. Municipal councils were composed of six ap- 
pointed ASU members, other members of the ASU who were elect- 
ed through ASU-supervised popular elections, and municipal 
service administrators. All council decisions were sent to the prime 
minister, who could reject them. If the council persisted, the mat- 
ter would be sent to the Council of Ministers for final review. The 
prime minister also was empowered to dissolve councils. 

The Cultural Revolution and People's Committees 

Bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of public participation con- 
tinued to plague the subnational governmental system. Not only 


Libya: A Country Study 

did the ASU organization appear too complex to foster public in- 
volvement by the politically unsophisticated masses, but there was 
the additional problem of poor coordination between the ASU and 
subnational administrators. In large part to correct these problems, 
Qadhafi proclaimed the Cultural Revolution on April 15, 1973. 
The institutional linchpin of the Cultural Revolution was the peo- 
ple's committee, which also was the primary component of the third 
stage in the development of subnational administration. 

Similar in structure to the ASU, people's committees were both 
functionally and geographically based. Functionally based people's 
committees were established in universities, schools, private busi- 
ness firms (including foreign-owned oil companies), farms, public 
utilities, banks, government organs, the broadcast media, and at 
harbor and airport facilities. Geographically based people's com- 
mittees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone levels 
(municipalities being composed of several zones). Direct popular 
elections filled the seats on the people's committees at the zone level. 
The zone-level committees selected representatives who collectively 
formed the Municipal People's Committee; municipal people's 
committees in turn selected representatives to form the governorate 
people's committees. Any citizen of at least nineteen years of age 
was permitted to vote and to run for committee membership, but 
there were no standardized rules governing the formation of the 
people's committees, at least at the beginning. This resulted in con- 
siderable confusion, particularly when multiple people's commit- 
tees formed in the same place began denouncing each other. In 
such instances, new RCC -sanctioned elections had to be called. 
The deadline for the formation of people's committees was August 
1973. Estimates of the number of committees in existence by that 
time vary from approximately 1,000 to more than 2,000. 

According to Qadhafi, people's committees were to be the pri- 
mary instrument of the Revolution. They were to decide what and 
who conformed to the principles of the Revolution, a task that 
included the purging of government officials (up to the rank of 
undersecretary) and private executives and managers. Thousands 
of functionaries were dismissed, demoted, or transferred. In rare 
cases, executives and other functionaries were promoted. Such 
actions severely disrupted the orderly operation of countless govern- 
ment offices and private enterprises, so much so that by the fall 
of 1973 the press and the RCC were publicly criticizing the zeal 
with which committees substituted unqualified replacements for 
experienced persons. At no time did the RCC lose control of the 
situation, however; on occasion it reversed people's committee 
actions, dismissed individual committee members, and even 


Government and Politics 

dissolved whole committees, sanctioning new elections in the 
process. In a positive sense, the people's committees provided the 
masses with still more opportunities to participate in the govern- 
mental system, and the purges resulted in the replacement of critics 
(both real and imagined) of the Qadhafi regime by militants who 
felt more closely linked to the RCC and the Revolution. 

The people's committees originally were seen as an experiment, 
but by October 1973 a new law had formalized their existence and 
set their term of membership at three years. More significantly, 
the law transferred the authority and functions of municipal and 
governorate councils to the people's committees at the same levels. 
The chairmen of the governorate people's committees became the 
governors; the chairmen of the municipal people's committees 
became mayors. 

During 1974 doubts increased regarding the operation of the peo- 
ple's committees. The Libyan press warned of the danger inher- 
ent in the creation of a new bureaucratic class. In early September, 
an RCC spokesman publicly accused the committee system of degen- 
erating into anarchy and rashness and of deviating from the path 
of true democracy. New elections for all levels of people's com- 
mittees were held from September 14 to October 3; some of the 
existing committees were reelected. 

At the 1974 National Congress, Qadhafi stated that the com- 
plexity of administrative machinery limited mass interest in polit- 
ical participation, and he called for the removal of obstacles between 
the people and the government. He believed that policy planning 
should be centralized but that execution should be decentralized. 
The congress responded by recommending the abolition of gover- 
norates. It also stressed the primacy of the people's committees in 
administrative affairs and the ASU's supervisory authority over 
the committees. 

In February 1975, the RCC issued a law that abolished the gover- 
norates and their service directorates; however, twelve years later 
many sources continued to refer to the governorates as though they 
still existed. A separate Ministry of Municipalities reemerged from 
the Ministry of Interior. Direction of the services previously admin- 
istered by the governorate directorates — education, health, hous- 
ing, social services, labor, agricultural services, communications, 
financial services, and economy — was transferred to nine newly 
created control bureaus. Each control bureau was located in the 
appropriate ministry, and the ministry became responsible for deliv- 
ery of the service to the country as a whole. Another RCC law, 
issued on April 7 , formally established the municipality as the sole 
administrative and geographical subdivision within Libya. It further 


Libya: A Country Study 

stipulated that each municipality would be subdivided into quarters, 
each quarter to have its own people's committee. The municipal 
people's committee would comprise representatives from the quar- 
ters' committees. 

The Basic People's Congress 

The blurred lines of responsibility dividing the ASU (as the orga- 
nization charged with mobilizing the masses) and the people's com- 
mittees (charged with being the primary administrative instrument 
of the Revolution) led to minimal cooperation and even conflict 
between the two systems. Political participation by the population 
as a whole was lacking, and administration was inefficient. Qa- 
dhafi decided that if coordination and cooperation between the ASU 
and the people's committees were to be increased, and if organized 
functional groups (especially labor) were to be brought further into 
an integrated participatory system, still another innovation was 
required. The fourth stage in modifying subnational government 
and administration involved a reorganization of the ASU, an- 
nounced by Qadhafi on April 28, 1975. 

Membership in the reorganized ASU was open to all Libyans 
(except convicted criminals and the mentally ill) as well as to all 
Arabs living outside Libya. At the lowest geographic level, the sub- 
municipal zone, the population formed the BPC, all citizens within 
the jurisdiction of a given BPC automatically becoming members 
of it. By 1987 over 2,000 BPCs had been created. The BPC was 
headed by an executive or leadership committee of ten members, 
directed by a secretary (sometimes referred to as a chairman). The 
leadership committee's function was strictly administrative — 
announcing congress meetings, preparing minutes, and setting the 
agenda. Qadhafi noted that the leadership committees would be 
selected rather than elected, the results of elections not having been 
entirely satisfactory in the past. Press reports later announced, 
however, that ASU elections at all levels were held between Novem- 
ber 9 and December 3, 1975 (the term "election" possibly having 
been used in the broadest sense to include some less direct selec- 
tion process). Each municipal district was composed of several 
BPCs. The Tripoli ASU municipal district, for example, comprised 
forty-four BPCs in 1975. Members of the leadership committees 
of all BPCs within a given municipal district formed the Municipal 
Popular Congress. A leadership committee of twenty members was 
selected by that congress. 

Leadership committee chairmen from the BPCs and the 
Municipal Popular Congress were delegates to the highest ASU 
organ, the National Congress, which met in 1972 and 1974. Also 


Government and Politics 

represented at the municipal congresses and the National Congress 
were delegates from professional groups and organized labor, a 
modification in the old form of ASU functional representation based 
on work places. The April 1975 ASU reorganization announce- 
ment stipulated that the national representative organ was to be 
called the National General Congress. A November 13 decree in- 
cluded formal provisions for the new congress, the first session of 
which was held in January 1976. By the time of its September 1976 
session, the national representative body had become the GPC, 
which had transcended the old ASU National Congress in formal 
power and purpose. 

With the 1975 reorganization of the ASU, the roles of the peo- 
ple's committees and the ASU's BPCs were demarcated, at least 
theoretically. People's committees were responsible for political mat- 
ters, and they debated both domestic and foreign policies as 
presented by the national leadership in the form of a standard 
agenda. In terms of authority, the political organ was superior to 
the administrative, the ASU having been assigned supervisory and 
guidance functions over the people's committees. The GPC, embody- 
ing the will of the lower municipal and basic popular congresses, 
was the highest legislative and executive authority in the country. 

The Revolutionary Committees 

Appearance of revolutionary committees in late 1977 marked 
a further evolution of the political system. In response to Qadhafl's 
promptings, revolutionary committees sprang up in offices, schools, 
businesses, and in the armed forces. Carefully selected, they were 
estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 members in 1985. These supposedly 
spontaneous groups, made up of zealous, mostly youthful individ- 
uals with modest education, functioned as the watchdogs of the 
regime and guides for the people's committees and popular con- 
gresses. As such, their role was to raise popular awareness, to pre- 
vent deviation from officially sanctioned ideology, and to combat 
tribalism, regionalism, self-doubt, apathy, reactionaries, foreign 
ideologies, and counterrevolutionaries. The formation of the revolu- 
tionary committees was a consequence of Qadhafl's impatience with 
the progress of the revolution, his obsession with achieving direct 
popular democracy, and his antipathy toward bureaucracy. 

The introduction of the revolutionary committees added still 
another layer to the political system, thus increasing its complex- 
ity. The revolutionary committees sent delegates to the GPC. Under 
Qadhafl's direct command and with his backing, they became so 
powerful that they frequently intimidated other GPC delegates. 
Reports of their heavy-handedness and extremism abound. In the 


Libya: A Country Study 

1980s, the "corruption trials" in revolutionary courts in which a 
defendant had no legal counsel and no right of appeal were widely 
criticized both at home and abroad (see Law and the Judiciary, 
this ch.). The infamous "hit squads," composed of elements of 
the revolutionary committees, pursued Qadhafl's opponents over- 
seas, assassinating a number of them. Violent clashes occurred 
between revolutionary committees and the officially recognized or 
legitimate people's groups and the armed forces. It became clear 
by the mid-1980s that the revolutionary committees had frequently 
stifled freedom of expression. Regardless of Qadhafl's intentions, 
they had clearly "undermined any meaningful popular participa- 
tion in the political process," as Lillian Craig Harris, an author- 
ity on Libya, observed. 

Summary and Trends in 1987 

Despite the fact that Qadhafi has established an elaborate and 
complex system of overlapping institutions to foster public represen- 
tation and "direct democracy," the Libyan regime in 1987 was 
still controlled by a small group of powerful men. Although no offi- 
cial leadership hierarchy delineated the relative power of these top 
leaders, Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi was de facto chief of state 
without holding such a title. He remained the primary decision 
maker and continued to act as the supreme commander of the armed 
forces, the Leader of the Revolution, and its founding father and 
foremost theoretician. Dr. Miftah al Usta Umar, secretary of the 
General People's Congress, theoretically served as the chief of state. 
Abdel Salaam Jallud continued to be identified as Libya's num- 
ber two man, despite doubts raised by his three-month stay in Syria. 
His return to Libya in early March 1987, however, indicated that 
rumors of a rift with Qadhafi were exaggerated. 

The most recent government shuffle, taking place in early March 
1987, entailed the replacement of Jadallah Azzuz at Talhi as secre- 
tary general of the General People's Committee (a position cor- 
responding to prime minister). His successor, Umar al Muntasir, 
who served previously as secretary of industries, was little known 
outside Libya. The Libyan news agency J AN A announced that 
Talhi had replaced Kamal Hassan Mansur as secretary of foreign 
liaison (corresponding to foreign minister). 

Outside the formal government or cabinet structure, the most 
important figures of the Libyan regime, in addition to Jallud, 
included Armed Forces Chief of Staff Abu Bakr Yunis, Inspector 
General of the Armed Forces Mustafa Kharrubi, and Colonel 
Khuwayldi al Hamidi, head of the "shock force" of the revolu- 
tionary committees tasked with suppressing political dissent. 


Government and Politics 

All of these men were among the twelve founders of the Free Officers 
Movement, whose members seized power in September 1969. And, 
following the purges in the aftermath of a 1975 coup attempt, they 
were the only original members of the original twelve Free Officers 
Movement who remained in power. The cohesion of this inner core 
has continued with little or no sign of conflict or dissension. 

Prominent among the revolutionary committees' young radicals 
was Musa Kusa, who was in charge of the International Revolu- 
tionary Committee (sometimes called the Libyan World Center 
for Resistance to Imperialism, Zionism, Racism, Reaction, and 
Fascism). Qadhafi's cousin, Ahmad Qadhafadam, played a promi- 
nent role in actions against "stray dogs," i.e., Libyans opposed 
to Qadhafi who were outside the country and were targets for assas- 
sination. Finally, Khalifa Hunaysh headed the presidential guard, 
a group that protected Qadhafi. 

The regime faced tumultuous internal crises in 1987. The mili- 
tary establishment was disgruntled and demoralized by the war in 
Chad, economic problems were exacerbated by the world oil glut, 
and disputes among certain key regime figures threatened to erode 
Qadhafi's personal power base (see Growth and Structure of the 
Economy, ch. 3; State of Internal Security, ch. 5). A rift between 
Colonel Hassan Ishkal (also seen as Eshkal), military commander 
of the oil-rich central region and a long-time friend of Qadhafi, 
and Hunaysh, culminated in Ishkal' s death under mysterious cir- 
cumstances in Tripoli on November 24, 1986. Although the facts 
were not definitively established, foreign observers believed that 
Ishkal, who was Qadhafi's cousin, was killed by supporters of 
Hunaysh. Significantly, both men were members of Qadhafi's 
tribe — the Qadhafadam — upon which Qadhafi has relied increas- 
ingly in recent years. But after the daily newspaper Jamahiriyah vehe- 
mently criticized the Qadhafadam tribe, the Libyan leader decided 
to distance himself from his kin. Foreign observers believed that 
unless intratribal conflicts were kept within manageable limits, yet 
another crucial base of Qadhafi's support would be eroded. The 
question arose as to how many domestic interest groups the regime 
could afford to alienate before it was left with no support. 

Unlike many leaders, who, when confronted by mounting threats 
to regime stability, adopted a conservative and cautious approach 
to consolidate their grip on power, Qadhafi met threats with fur- 
ther changes. Qadhafi had often launched new domestic or for- 
eign political initiatives to distract attention from domestic crises, 
and in view of this record, further political change came as no sur- 
prise. On November 3, 1986, Az Zahf al Akhdar (The Green March), 
the mouthpiece of the revolutionary committees, carried a long 


Libya: A Country Study 

article, probably written by Qadhafi, which surprisingly argued 
the urgent need to form a new political party. In an astonishing 
assertion, the article indicated that such a new political party would 
replace the people's congresses. According to the article, the peo- 
ple's congresses should be "crushed" because of "exploitation, 
stealing, monopoly, haughtiness, domination, favoritism, tribal- 
ism, reactionism, and corruption" among the masses, which they 
represented. The statement was apparently motivated by recogni- 
tion of the need to purge the GPC and the people's congresses of 
elements who voiced their opposition to some of Qadhafi's policies. 

In the opinion of informed observers, Qadhafi's practical polit- 
ical decision making contradicted his political theories. For ideo- 
logical reasons, he genuinely wanted the masses to evolve into a 
self-governing polity. For pragmatic reasons, however, he vetoed 
popular policies with which he disagreed, using the rationale that 
he was protecting the people from "opportunists" and "counter- 
revolutionaries." However, such paternalistic intervention contra- 
vened the very political process Qadhafi advocated by preventing 
the masses from reaching the stage of true self-reliance, Qadhafi's 
ostensible goal. 

Despite these shortcomings, however, it seemed clear that the 
basic goal of direct democracy had been achieved to some extent. 
Certainly, most Libyans were better represented than they had been 
under the monarchy. By the late 1980s, there were many oppor- 
tunities for the populace to participate in the political process and 
to influence the planning and regulations that affected their daily 
life. On occasion, the populace have succeeded in revising or chang- 
ing national policy. For example, faced with the strong opposition 
of the 1 984 GPC , Qadhafi conceded that military training of women 
would not require women to move away from home. In addition, 
"people's power" did provide for some genuine debate and con- 
sultation on most local and many regional matters. The jamahiriya 
system gave people experience in the exercise of responsibility that 
had largely been denied them in the past, if only because Qadhafi, 
whether or not by choice, did not wield absolute dictatorial power. 

Qadhafi's power and his ability to veto citizens' wishes was cir- 
cumscribed to some extent by the General Secretariat, which 
challenged his views. Moreover, Qadhafi's frequent resigna- 
tions did not gain him many concessions from his colleagues. As 
Raymond Hinnebusch pointed out, the fact that Qadhafi felt the 
need to resort to such measures or threats indicated that policy deci- 
sions were taken by a majority vote and that Qadhafi could be 


Government and Politics 

Although popular participation and self- representation in Libya's 
government have increased, there are clearly limits to how much 
control citizens can ultimately exert over their government. On 
the one hand, Qadhafi has set limits to the extent of dissent he will 
permit. Qadhafi created the revolutionary committees specifically 
to counteract growing people's power. And, just as the Chinese 
Cultural Revolution degenerated into chaos because of the excesses 
of the Red Guards, Libya's own Cultural Revolution, in its quest 
to remold society according to Qadhafi 's idiosyncratic vision of a 
pure Islam, may culminate in similar disruptions and upheavals. 
As of late 1987, however, the Libyan case had been far less radi- 
cal, with markedly less violence. On the other hand, the implemen- 
tation of the direct democracy is predicated on the assumption of 
sustained political interest and sound judgment that may be unre- 
alistic for many of the citizenry. For example, women's participa- 
tion in the political system was still at a low level in 1987, despite 
official encouragement of their participation. Nevertheless, as a 
unique type of direct popular democracy, the jamahiriya experiment 
was not likely to be of more than fleeting interest for policy makers, 
political theorists, and, those concerned with Third World develop- 
ment. Lillian Craig Harris suggested that although Qadhafi 's Uto- 
pian and simplistic The Green Book will not survive his tenure, the 
fact that he has so radically changed the Libyan political order indi- 
cates that at least some vestiges of his philosophy will endure indef- 

Although the ideal of greater public participation in government 
through direct democracy had appeal as a theory, Qadhafi has not 
been able to implement it practically; therefore, Libya's extremely 
complicated and inefficient system of government was unlikely to 
be emulated. One reason for the incredible, and growing, com- 
plexity of the Libyan political system was that new structures were 
frequently superimposed on already existing ones without the elimi- 
nation or even simplification of the existing structures. As a result 
of blurred lines of authority and responsibility, problems of cooper- 
ation and coordination between different parts of institutions have 
arisen. In the late 1970s, for instance, there were tensions between 
the ASU and the popular committees. Later, in the 1980s, fric- 
tion developed between the revolutionary committees on the one 
hand and the army and people's congresses on the other. In view 
of the extremely rapid pace of political and socioeconomic change, 
it seemed evident that the jamahiriya system needed time to mature. 

Qadhafi 's revolutionary transformations have outpaced govern- 
ment institution-building and the citizen's political absorptive 
capacity, causing widespread reaction and rejection of his plans. 


Libya: A Country Study 

The GPC in 1977 rejected Qadhafi's plan to dismantle the govern- 
ment (the presidency, the cabinet, and other political and adminis- 
trative structures). The 1983 GPC called for more moderate changes 
at a slower rate. Similarly, the 1984 GPC rejected Qadhafi's 
proposals to enlist women in the armed forces, to revise the law 
to give women equal rights in divorce, and to abolish elementary 
schools in favor of parental tutoring. As of April 1987, the second 
and third of these proposals appeared to have been put aside while 
a compromise was worked out regarding the highly controversial 
issue of women's military training in locations far from their homes. 

The preceding examples underline the resilience of traditions and 
traditional culture, including Islamic values and teachings (see Reli- 
gious Life, ch. 2). Much to Qadhafi's chagrin, various aspects of 
traditional culture have proved to be too deeply rooted to permit 
the elite to sweep them aside easily. Therefore, Qadhafi's impa- 
tience at what he considers an unduly slow pace of change will prob- 
ably continue for a long time. From this standpoint, the whole 
edifice of political and socioeconomic change wrought by the Lib- 
yan revolutionary elite under the guidance of Qadhafi still appears 
rather fragile. The post-Qadhafi era may go in directions very differ- 
ent from, and at odds with, at least some of the basic ideological 
features espoused by the previous elite. The real challenge facing 
Qadhafi was whether he could transform his revolution from above 
into a truly broad-based and popular mass revolution. 

Law and the Judiciary 

During the period of the Ottoman Empire, a dual judicial sys- 
tem that distinguished between religious and secular matters devel- 
oped in Libya and other subject countries. For Muslims, the 
majority of cases — those involving personal status, such as mar- 
riage and inheritance — fell within the jurisdiction of religious courts, 
which applied the Maliki interpretation of Islamic law — the sharia 
(see Islam and the Arabs, ch. 1; Tenets of Islam, ch. 2). The courts 
were organized into both original jurisdiction and appellate levels 
and each was directed by a qadi (see Glossary), an Islamic reli- 
gious judge. Secular matters — those involving civil, criminal, and 
commercial law — were tried in a separate court system. Laws cover- 
ing secular matters reflected Western influence in general and the 
Napoleonic Code in particular. Non-Muslims were not under 
sharia. For example, the Jewish minority was subject to its own 
religious courts. Europeans were subject to their national laws 
through consular courts, the European nations having secured capit- 
ulary rights from the Turks. 


Government and Politics 

The colonial powers that ruled Libya after the disintegration of 
the Ottoman Empire maintained the dual judicial structure. After 
Libya achieved independence, however, an attempt was made to 
merge the religious and secular legal systems. The merger, in 1954, 
involved the subordination of Islamic law to secular law. Popular 
opposition, however, caused the reestablishment of the separate 
religious and secular jurisdictions in 1958. 

The 1969 constitutional proclamation provided little guidance 
for the post-Revolutionary judiciary. Equality before the law and 
presumption of innocence were stipulated, and inheritance was 
made subject to sharia. The RCC was given the power to annul 
or reduce legal sentences by decree and to declare general amnes- 
ties. Also stipulated was the independence of judges in the exer- 
cise of their duties, subject to law and conscience. It was the RCC, 
however, that promulgated laws. 

Judicial independence and the due process of law were respected 
during the first decade of the post-Revolutionary regime, except 
when political crimes were involved. After 1979, however, the sit- 
uation deteriorated in direct proportion to the growth of the revolu- 
tionary committees (see The Revolutionary Committees, this ch.). 

Qadhafi and other RCC members believed that the separation 
of state and religion, and thus of secular and religious law, was 
artificial — that it violated the Quran and relegated sharia to a secon- 
dary status. Two post-Revolutionary bodies dealt with this situation. 
The Legislative Review and Amendment Committee, composed 
of Libyan legal experts, was created in October 1971 to make exist- 
ing laws conform to sharia. The ultimate aim was for Islam to per- 
meate the entire legal system, not only in personal matters, but 
also in civil, criminal, and commercial law. The Higher Council 
for National Guidance was created the next year (see Political Ideol- 
ogy, this ch.). Among its philosophical and educational duties was 
the presentation of Islamic moral and spiritual values in such a 
way that they would be viable in contemporary Libyan society. 

Application of Islamic legal tenets to contemporary law and 
society presented certain difficulties. There was, for example, the 
question of the proper contemporary meaning of traditional Islamic 
physical punishments, such as the severance of a hand for the crime 
of theft. Debates arose over whether severance should mean actual 
amputation or merely impeding the hand from future crime by 
removing need and temptation. The most literal interpretations 
were adopted, but their actual imposition as legal punishment was 
very much restricted by exemptions and qualifications, also based 
on Islamic tenets. A thief s hand would not be amputated, for exam- 
ple, if he truly repented of his crime or if he had committed the 


Libya: A Country Study 

theft to feed a starving family. Indeed, numerous observers have 
reported that the more extreme physical punishments are rarely, 
if ever, performed. 

Court Structure 

With the acceptance of the primacy of Islamic law, the dual 
religious-secular court structure was no longer necessary. In Novem- 
ber 1973, the religious judicial system of qadi courts was abolished. 
The secular court system was retained to administer justice, but 
its jurisdiction now included religious matters. Secular jurispru- 
dence had to conform to sharia, which remained the basis for reli- 
gious jurisprudence. In 1987 the court system had four levels: 
summary courts (sometimes referred to as partial courts), courts 
of first instance, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court (see fig. 1 1). 

Summary courts were located in most small towns. Each con- 
sisted of a single judge who heard cases involving misdemeanors. 
Misdemeanors were disputes involving amounts up to Libyan dinar 
(LD) 100 (for value of the Libyan dinar — see Glossary). Most deci- 
sions were final, but in cases where the dispute involved more than 
LD20 the decision could be appealed. 

The primary court was the court of first instance. One court of 
first instance was located in each area that formerly had consti- 
tuted a governorate before the governorates as such were abolished 
in 1975. Courts of first instance heard appeals from summary courts 
and had original jurisdiction over all matters in which amounts 
of more than LD100 were involved. A panel of three judges, rul- 
ing by majority decision, heard civil, criminal, and commercial 
cases and applied sharia to personal or religious matters that were 
formerly handled by the qadi courts. 

The three courts of appeals sat at Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha. 
A three-judge panel, again ruling by majority decision, served in 
each court and heard appeals from the courts of first instance. Origi- 
nal jurisdiction applied to cases involving felonies and high crimes. 
Sharia judges who formerly sat in the Sharia Court of Appeals were 
assigned to the regular courts of appeals and continue to special- 
ize in sharia appellate cases. 

The Supreme Court was located in Tripoli and comprised five 
chambers: civil and commercial, criminal, administrative, constitu- 
tional, and sharia. A five-judge panel sat in each chamber, the 
majority establishing the decision. The court was the final appel- 
late body for cases emanating from lower courts. It could also inter- 
pret constitutional matters. However, it no longer had cassation 
or annulment power over the decisions of the lower courts, as it 
did before the 1969 Revolution. Because there was a large pool of 


Government and Politics 


Libya: A Country Study 

Supreme Court justices from which the panel was drawn at a given 
time, the total number of justices was not fixed. All justices and 
the president (also seen as chairman) of the court were appointed 
by the GPC; most likely the General Secretariat made the actual 
selections. Before its abolition, the RCC made Supreme Court ap- 

Other Juridical Organs 

Some bodies involved in the administration or the enforcement 
of justice were situated outside the regular court system. For exam- 
ple, the Supreme Council of Judicial Authorities was an adminis- 
trative body that coordinated and supervised the various courts. 
It also established the salaries and seniority rules forjudges, whom 
it could transfer or retire. The Council of State, much like the 
French Conseil d'Etat, delivered advisory legal opinions for govern- 
ment bodies regarding draft legislation and other actions or regu- 
lations it was contemplating, as well as contract negotiations in 
which it might be involved. It also included an administrative court 
to provide relief in civil cases involving arbitrary or otherwise unfair 
administrative decisions. 

The People's Court 

In 1971 a people's court was established to try members of the 
former royal family, the prime ministers and other officials of the 
monarchical regime, people accused of rigging elections in behalf 
of that regime, and journalists and editors accused of corrupting 
public opinion before the Revolution. A member of the RCC pre- 
sided over the court, which also included one representative each 
from the armed forces, the Islamic University, the Supreme Court, 
and the police. Trials and retrials continued at least as late as 1975, 
when former King Idris was sentenced to death in absentia. An 
amnesty for some of those sentenced in 1971 was granted by the 
RCC in 1976. 

With matters pertaining to the former monarchical regime 
having been resolved, it appeared that several people's courts 
were being used in the late 1970s to try crimes against the post- 
Revolutionary state. In January 1977, a new people's court was 
formed to try political detainees. The Decision on the Protection 
of the Revolution, issued December 11, 1969, generally defined 
crimes against the state as those involving attempted forcible over- 
throw of the ruling regime or otherwise rallying opposition to it. 
Such crimes may be referred to a people's court, but plots and con- 
spiracies against the state are usually referred to special military 
courts created on an ad hoc basis for that purpose. The military 


Government and Politics 

courts and the people's courts have been criticized for violating 
the legal rights of defendants in political cases (see Criminal Justice 
System, ch. 5). 

The Revolutionary Courts 

In the early 1980s, a separate and parallel judicial system emerged 
that abrogated many procedures and rights ensured by the tradi- 
tional court system. With the regime's blessing and encouragement, 
revolutionary committee members established revolutionary courts 
that held public, often televised, trials of those charged with crimes 
against the Revolution. A law promulgated in 1981 prohibited pri- 
vate legal practice and made all lawyers employees of the Secretariat 
of Justice. In these courts, the accepted norms — such as due process, 
the right to legal representation, and right of appeal — were fre- 
quently violated. According to Amnesty International, Libya held 
seventy-seven political prisoners in 1985, of whom about eighteen 
were held without trial or remained in detention after having been 
acquitted. Others allegedly died under torture while in the cus- 
tody of members of the revolutionary committees. Libya also sanc- 
tioned murder of political opponents abroad, a policy reaffirmed 
on March 2, 1985, by the GPC. 

Unions and Syndicates 

Immediately after the Revolution, the role that labor unions, 
professional syndicates, and other organized interest groups would 
play in the new society was in doubt. Regarding labor unions, for 
example, Qadhafi stated in a November 4, 1969, speech in Trip- 
oli: "There will be no labor unions .... Laborers and the Revo- 
lution are an indivisible entity. There may be certain labor 
organizations, but only for ordinary administrative duties." On 
November 30, however, Qadhafi stated in an interview that there 
was no thought of abolishing labor unions and student organiza- 
tions, but they must "truly represent their groups with a revolu- 
tionary spirit. We do not accept intermediaries between the 
Revolution and its working forces." 

After the Revolution, most pre-Revolutionary interest groups were 
abolished and new ones created. Functioning within the framework 
of the ASU at first, and the GPC after 1976, the new interest groups 
lacked autonomy and played an insignificant political role. In Janu- 
ary 1976, the ASU National Congress emphasized that political 
activity was to be solely within the purview of popular congresses. 
After 1976 labor unions and other associations performed only 
administrative duties pertaining to the occupations or nonpoliti- 
cal activities of their members. Strikes have been prohibited since 


Libya: A Country Study 

1972. In Qadhafi 's ideology, workers should be transformed into 
partners; to work for wages is a form of slavery. Therefore, he urged 
workers to take over companies, factories, and schools and to set 
up people's committees to manage production and decide priori- 
ties. In theory, this system would make labor unions unnecessary. 

In fact, however, unions continued to exist. In the mid-1980s, 
there were some 275,000 members belonging to 18 trade unions, 
which together formed the Tripoli-based National Trade Union 
Federation. In addition, separate syndicates existed for teachers, 
engineers, physicians, lawyers, and other professionals. Other 
groups represented women and students. The GPC included com- 
ponents of all these units. Although Libyan interest groups did not 
have a real political role similar to that such groups play in the 
Western tradition, their responsibilities included contributing to 
the Cultural Revolution, raising the revolutionary consciousness 
of their members, and mobilizing support for national leaders and 
their policies. 

Before the Revolution of 1969, organized labor played a signifi- 
cant role in opposing the monarchy. Yet the union movement was 
too young to be established firmly, and it had no connection with 
the military group that overthrew the king. Consequently, unions 
and most other interest groups have not resisted the limitations im- 
posed within the post-Revolutionary framework and the concomi- 
tant lack of a real political role. Students have proved an exception, 
however. Early post-Revolutionary enthusiasm for the RCC quickly 
changed to opposition as a significant number of students reacted 
against restrictions on the autonomy of student leaders (see Stu- 
dent Opposition, this ch.). 

Opposition to Qadhafi 

It was not surprising that opposition arose to the rapid radical 
changes ushered in by the Qadhafi regime. The wealthy, the 
privileged, and the traditional tribal and religious elites resented 
their post-Revolutionary loss of power. The ranks of the opposi- 
tion also grew to include sections of the armed forces, university 
students, intellectuals and technocrats, and even some of the new 
political and tribal leaders who clashed with the core elite for one 
reason or another. 

For its part, the Revolutionary regime made it clear from the out- 
set that it would brook no opposition. Opposition from political 
parties or other interest groups was viewed as harmful to national 
unity. Speaking in October 1969, Qadhafi stated that Libya needed 
"national unity free of party activities and division" and that "he 
who engages in party activities commits treason." The December 


Government and Politics 

1969 Decision on the Protection of the Revolution, the Penal Code, 
and Law No. 71 of 1972 rendered political party activities a crime 
and formed a strict legal injunction against unauthorized political 
activity, particularly if such activity should physically threaten the 
state. Insulting the Constitution or popular authorities and join- 
ing a nonpolitical international society without permission were 
both punishable by imprisonment. Attempting to change the 
government or the Constitution through force, propagandizing the- 
ories or principles aimed at such action, and forming an illegal group 
were crimes punishable by death. One of the basic points of the 
Cultural Revolution, declared in April 1973, called for the repres- 
sion of communism and conservatism. Also to be repressed were 
capitalism, atheism, and the secretive Muslim Brotherhood (see 

Despite legal strictures and physical attempts to nullify opposi- 
tion, there has been resistance to the Revolutionary regime. The 
discovery of a plot involving two cabinet ministers (lieutenant 
colonels who were not RCC members) was announced in Decem- 
ber 1969. A second plot, allegedly based in Fezzan and involving 
a distant cousin of former King Idris, was discovered in July 1970. 
Participation of foreign mercenaries was alleged in both cases (see 
Qadhafi and the Revolutionary Command Council, ch. 1). Other 
resistance has been encountered from traditional tribal leaders who 
have not welcomed their own displacement by modernizing tech- 
nocrats, government administrators, people's committees, and 
popular congresses. Numerous technocrats and other elements of 
the urban population opposed Qadhafi 's emphasis on religion. 
Traditional Islamic religious leaders also opposed Qadhafi' s 
approach to Islam because its uniquely personal and fundamen- 
talist nature superseded their intermediary position and interpre- 
tive function. As in many other developing countries, aspects of 
the modernization process — such as education and mass commu- 
nications — also result in impatience and dissatisfaction with the rul- 
ing regime. Increased education and exposure to the mass media 
were intended to inculcate Libyan citizens with patriotism and 
loyalty to the regime; however, through education and the media, 
Libyans also were informed of standards of living and political free- 
doms enjoyed elsewhere in the world. Exposure to the media created 
rising expectations that probably increased demands on the govern- 
ment rather than increasing support for it through propaganda. 

Student Opposition 

As previously noted, students have been the source of the most 
visible opposition to the Qadhafi regime. They initially appeared 


Libya: A Country Study 

to support the Revolution. Friction soon developed, however, when 
it became clear that student organizations would lose their auton- 
omy within the ASU or GPC framework. The Revolution, nonethe- 
less, continued to have student supporters, and many of the first 
people's committees formed in the wake of the 1973 Cultural Revo- 
lution were established at universities. Those committees radically 
altered curricula, dismissed professors and deans, and terminated 
the school term early so that students could join volunteer projects 
and receive military training. Seventeen years after the Qadhafi- 
led coup, students as a whole remained divided between supporters 
and critics of the Revolutionary regime. 

A particularly serious incident occurred in January 1976 when 
students at the University of Benghazi protested government inter- 
ference in student union elections. Elected students who were not 
ASU members were considered officially unacceptable by the 
authorities. Security forces moved onto the campus, and violence 
resulted. Reports that several students were shot and killed in the 
incident were adamantly denied by the government. Nonetheless, 
sympathizers organized more protests. Qadhafi and Jallud, speaking 
on April 6 at Tripoli University, called on revolutionaries there 
to drive out the opposition. Some clashes occurred as the newly 
formed people's committee undertook the purging of nonrevolu- 
tionaries. The school was finally closed temporarily and then 
renamed Al Fatah University. Since that time, there have been 
intermittent reports of student rebelliousness. In April 1984, for 
instance, two students at Al Fatah University were publicly hanged. 
Apparently in revenge, two revolutionary committee members were 
found murdered on campus. According to Amnesty International, 
two more students died in 1985, allegedly under torture while in 
the custody of the revolutionary committees. 

Military Opposition 

The military remained the most serious threat to the Qadhafi 
regime. By March 1987, there were signs of disaffection among 
the officers. In part, this was the result of mounting casualties and 
setbacks in the Chad war. Such discontent was illustrated by the 
defection to Egypt in early March of six air force personnel, includ- 
ing a lieutenant colonel. Upon landing at Abu Simbel airfield in 
Upper Egypt, the airmen denounced Qadhafi 's rule and requested 

Qadhafi 's calls for a people's army that would eventually replace 
the professional military evidently disturbed the armed forces. Fur- 
thermore, the revolutionary committees often increased their power 
at the military's expense. In addition, the military resented the 


Government and Politics 

revolutionary committees' interference in national security affairs. 
It was reported, for example, that brief armed clashes between the 
two groups took place when certain missile positions were unable 
to respond to the United States air attacks in April 1986 because 
revolutionary committee members who were supposed to man them 
could not be found. 

That Qadhafi had entrusted the revolutionary committees with 
the vital mission of manning air defense positions underscored the 
extent to which he has deployed them to counterbalance the power 
of the armed forces. It indicated that Qadhafi had learned one vital 
lesson from the often-turbulent Middle East politics, namely that 
the military has masterminded most coups d'etat. In measure to 
forestall possible coup attempts, military commanders were fre- 
quently rotated or forced into early retirement. In 1984, for exam- 
ple, about seventy senior officers were obliged to retire. Despite 
such precautions, the military had managed to stage most of the 
attempts against Qadhafi since 1976. Most experts believed that 
the military was the group most likely to topple Qadhafi. 

Religious Opposition 

In April 1973, Qadhafi launched the five-point Cultural Revo- 
lution (see Political Ideology, this ch.). Among the points was the 
replacement of existing laws by sharia. In a speech on April 28, 
he asked University of Benghazi law students to help revise the 
legal codes and repeatedly emphasized the principle of the prima- 
cy of Islamic law over other jurisprudence. The traditional reli- 
gious establishment gave initial support to Qadhafi' s restoration 
of Islamic jurisprudence, but it soon started to oppose his actions, 
accusing him of pretensions. 

First, Qadhafi challenged the traditional role of the ulama (Islamic 
jurists or scholars) as expert interpreters of the Quran. Because 
the Quran is written in Arabic, argued Qadhafi, anyone who knows 
Arabic can understand it. As did Martin Luther's Protestantism, 
Qadhafl's interpretation of Islam recognizes no need for intermedi- 
aries between God and humans. 

Furthermore, Qadhafi in effect arrogated a new role to himself — 
that of a mujtahid, a Muslim jurist who renders decisions based on 
the opinions of one of the four legal schools of Islam. In this case, 
Qadhafi sought to reinterpret the Quran in light of modern condi- 
tions and current needs. His insistence on the necessity to sweep 
aside virtually the entire body of Islamic commentary and learn- 
ing, including the hadith (the Prophet Muhammad's sayings), and 
to limit the legitimate sources of legislation to the Quran alone has 
caused misgivings throughout the Islamic world. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Moreover, Qadhafl's interpretation of Islam was considered rad- 
ical. He considered the Quran to be the only source of sharia and 
community. As did other Muslim reformers, Quran saw devia- 
tion from "true" Islamic teachings as the cause of the weakness 
of Islamic lands, including Libya. Like them, he also called for 
a return to the source, the Quran. But unlike most other reform- 
ers, Qadhafi excluded the hadith and the sunna (the lifestyle and 
deeds of the Prophet) as reliable sources of legislation. By ques- 
tioning the authenticity of the hadith, Qadhafi has in effect dis- 
missed the entire edifice of traditional fikh (Islamic jurisprudence). 
As one scholar, Ann Elizabeth Mayer, put it, "discrediting the 
hadith entails rejection of by far the greater part of Islamic law." 
In essence, Qadhafi rejected taqlid (obedience to received authori- 
ty, i.e. , the revelation of God to the Prophet Muhammad) in favor 
of ijtihad (the right to interpretation). 

In 1977 Qadhafi took yet another unprecedented, no less con- 
troversial step, altering the Muslim calendar. Instead of starting 
from the date of the Prophet's migration to Medina, the year began 
with the date of the Prophet's death. Shocked by Qadhafi 's radi- 
cal reinterpretation of Islam, the ulama accused him of heresy. 
Characteristically, however, the Libyan leader was undaunted. 

The confrontation with the ulama began in the mid-1970s, when 
they criticized some aspects of Qadhafl's increasingly idiosyncratic 
and radical ideology. In 1977, for example, the grand mufti (chief 
religious judge) of Libya criticized the sequestration of private 
property, which resulted from the new law prohibiting the owner- 
ship of more than one house. 

The clergy were upset because, in effect, The Green Book was dis- 
placing sharia as the blueprint for Libya's political and social devel- 
opment. Furthermore, inasmuch as the Third Universal Theory 
is purportedly a relevant model for non-Muslim Third World coun- 
tries, the theory's reliance on Islamic precepts had to be diluted 
(see The Third Universal Theory, this ch.). 

Accusing the ulama of siding with the upper classes, in Febru- 
ary 1978 Qadhafi warned them against interfering in the regime's 
socialist policies. A few months later, some mosques were seized 
and their imams (prayer leaders) replaced by more compliant ones. 
To undermine further the legitimacy of the religious leaders, 
Qadhafi blamed the grand mufti for failing to declare a jihad (see 
Glossary) against the Italians during the 1930s. Qadhafl's relent- 
less attacks on the traditional religious establishment succeeded in 
eroding its hitherto lofty status, thereby removing a powerful center 
of opposition to regime-sponsored changes. 


Government and Politics 

Apart from conflicts with the traditional religious hierarchy, 
Qadhafi had a longstanding conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood 
and other fundamentalist groups, whose membership went into exile 
or underground during Qadhafi 's tenure. In March 1987, it was 
reported that nine Muslim dissidents, members of a little-known 
group called Holy War, were executed for plotting to assassinate 
Soviet advisers. A revolutionary committee member was assassi- 
nated in Benghazi in October 1986 by the hitherto unknown Hiz- 
ballah (Party of God). As a result, the revolutionary committees 
began to monitor more closely than before the activities of the 
mosques, the imams, and the fundamentalists. The country's forty- 
eight Islamic institutes reportedly were closed in late 1986, appar- 
ently to stem the tide of religious, particularly fundamentalist, 

Exiled Opposition 

Over twenty opposition groups exist outside Libya. The most 
important in 1987 was the National Front for the Salvation of Libya 
(NFSL), formed in October 1981, and led by Muhammad Yusuf 
al Magariaf, formerly Libyan ambassador to India. The NFSL was 
based in Sudan until the fall of the Numayri regime in 1985, after 
which its operations were dispersed. The NFSL rejected military 
and dictatorial rule and called for a democratic regime with con- 
stitutional guarantees, free elections, free press, and separation of 
powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The 
group published a bimonthly newsletter, Al Inqadh (Salvation). 

The NFSL claimed responsibility for the daring attack on Qa- 
dhafi' s headquarters at Bab al Aziziyah on May 8, 1984. Although 
the coup attempt failed and Qadhafi escaped unscathed, dissident 
groups claimed that some eighty Libyans, Cubans, and East Ger- 
mans perished. According to various sources, the United States 
Central Intelligence Agency trained and supported the NFSL before 
and after the May 8 operation. Domestically, some 2,000 people 
were arrested and 8 were hanged publicly. The NFSL also 
organized the April 1 984 demonstration in London in which a Brit- 
ish policewoman was killed by a Libyan diplomat, leading to the 
breaking of diplomatic relations between Tripoli and London. 

Another opposition group, the Libyan Liberation Organization, 
based in Cairo, was formed in 1982. In 1987 it was led by Abdul 
Hamid Bakkush, a prime minister during the Idris monarchy. In 
mid-November 1984, Libyan officials were greatly embarrassed 
by their premature claims of responsibility for the assassination of 
Bakkush. In fact, the entire operation was elaborately stage- 
managed by the Egyptian security forces, who produced a very 


Libya: A Country Study 

much alive Bakkush on television along with members of the four- 
man hit squad, which reportedly consisted of two British citizens 
and two Maltese. 

Al Burkan (The Volcano), a highly secretive and violent organi- 
zation that emerged in 1984, has been responsible for the assassi- 
nation of many Libyan officials overseas. For instance, it claimed 
responsibility for the death of the Libyan ambassador in Rome in 
January 1984, and, a year later, for the assassination of the Libyan 
Information Bureau chief, also in Rome. A Libyan businessman 
with close ties to Qadhafi was shot dead on June 21 , 1984, in Athens 
during the visit of Abdul Salaam Turayki, Libya's secretary of for- 
eign liaison. 

Less well-known opposition groups outside Libya were the Lib- 
yan Constitutional Union, the pro-Iraqi Libyan National Move- 
ment, the Libyan National Democratic Grouping led by Mahmud 
Sulayman al Maghrabi, Libya's first post-Revolutionary prime 
minister, and Al Haq, a rightist pro-monarchy group. 

The opposition groups outside Libya remained disunited and 
largely ineffective. Divided ideologically into such groups as 
Baathists (see Glossary), socialists, monarchists, liberals, and Islamic 
fundamentalists, they agreed only on the necessity of overthrow- 
ing the Qadhafi regime. An initial step toward coordination was 
taken in January 1987 when eight opposition groups, including 
the Libyan National Movement, the Libyan National Struggle 
Movement, and the Libyan Liberation Organization, agreed to 
form a working group headed by Major Abd al Munim al Huni, 
a former RCC member who has been living in Cairo since the 1975 
coup attempt that was led by another RCC member, Umar 
Muhayshi. Some observers speculated that because Huni appeared 
to be acceptable to all opposition groups and in view of his close 
ties to the military, he may well be the man most likely to succeed 
Qadhafi. If the Iranian experience offered any insights, the hallmark 
of the post-Qadhafi era would be a bloody power struggle between 
erstwhile coalition groups of diverse ideological beliefs. By early 
1987, it was by no means clear which faction might emerge as the 
ultimate victor, should Qadhafi be toppled. It must be kept in mind, 
however, that the Libyan leader has outlasted many of his ene- 
mies, both foreign and domestic. 

To deal with outside opposition, the Libyan regime continued 
its controversial policy of physical liquidation of opponents. On 
March 2, 1985, the GPC reiterated its approval of the policy of 
"the pursuit and physical liquidation of the stray dogs." During 
the 1985 wave of violence, a number of Libyans living abroad were 
killed or wounded. Among the casualties were former ambassador 


Government and Politics 

Izzedin Ghadamsi, seriously wounded in Vienna on February 28; 
businessman Ahmad Barrani, killed in Cyprus on April 2; another 
businessman, Yusuf Agila, wounded in Athens on October 6; and 
Gibril Denali, a thirty-year-old student living in the Federal Repub- 
lic of Germany (West Germany) as a political refugee, assassinated 
in Bonn on April 6. The liquidation policy continued into 1987 
when Muhammad Salim Fuhaymah, a prominent Libyan dissi- 
dent, was assassinated in Athens on January 7. 

The physical liquidation policy has drawn universal condemna- 
tion. However, the impact of the policy, should not be exaggerated. 
During 1984, there were 4 assassinations of Libyans abroad and 
between 20 and 120 executions internally. Scholar Lillian Craig 
Harris, writing in late 1986, stated that since 1980 twenty anti- 
Qadhafi Libyans had been assassinated abroad. 

Political Ideology 

In the late 1980s, Qadhafi continued to perceive himself as a 
revolutionary leader. Qadhafi has always claimed that the Septem- 
ber 1969 overthrow of the monarchy was a popular revolution, not 
merely a military coup d'etat. In fact, only a few military officers 
and enlisted men took part in the September revolution. Qadhafi 
reconciled the apparent inconsistency by stressing that the 
military — and more specifically the Free Officers Movement, whose 
members took part in the coup and subsequently formed the 
RCC — shared the humble origins of the people and represented 
their demands. Qadhafi depicted the military as the vanguard elite 
of the people, a concept adopted from Marxist-Leninist ideology. 
But although Qadhafi wanted to be recognized as a revolutionary 
leader and justified military domination of Libya with the concept 
of the vanguard elite, he excoriated communism as well as capi- 

The wellsprings of Qadhafi 's political thought are the Quran and 
Nasserism. As an ardent admirer of Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser, 
Qadhafi has never wavered in the conviction that he is Nasser's 
legitimate heir. As such, he felt compelled to advance Nasser's strug- 
gle for Arab unity and socialism. Qadhafi was influenced by Nasser's 
theory of the concentric Islamic, Arab, and African circles of 
influence. Unlike Nasser, however, Qadhafi developed a brand 
of socialism that he believed to be consonant with Islamic prin- 

Qadhafi expanded Nasser's political thought by emphasizing the 
Islamic bases of socialism in that the Quran condemns class domi- 
nation and exploitation. Qadhafi stated that although Islam 


Libya: A Country Study 

"cannot be described as socialism in its modern sense, it strives 
to a certain extent to dissolve the differences among classes." 
According to Qadhafi, "almsgiving is the nucleus of the socialist 
spirit in Islam." Socialism in Libya was to mean "social justice." 
Work, production, and resources were all to be shared fairly, and 
extreme disparities between rich and poor were to be eliminated. 
But social hierarchy, as provided for in the Quran, would remain, 
and class harmony, not class warfare, would be the result. Qadhafi 
stressed that this socialism, inherent in Islam, was not merely a 
stage toward communism, as the Marxist theorists would argue. 

For Qadhafi as for Nasser, Arab nationalism took primacy over 
pan-Islamism. Both leaders can be described as secularists, although 
Qadhafi increasingly emphasized the Islamic roots of his ideology. 
Yet, his main interest undoubtedly lay in the secular rather than 
the sacred world. Revolution, the propagation of The Green Book, 
mass mobilization, and liberation remained his obsessions. "I love 
the people, all the people," he proclaimed in a 1986 interview with 
a French television newscaster published in Jeune Afrique. "I would 
like the people to vanquish the government, the armies, the police, 
the parties, and the parliaments," he said in explanation of his 
notion of direct democracy in which people rule themselves without 
the mediation of traditional governmental institutions. "I am the 
prophet of the revolution and not the prophet of Allah," Qadhafi 
declared in the same interview, "for what interests me in this cen- 
tury is that The Green Book become the bible of the modern world." 

The secular basis of Qadhafi 's philosophy was emphasized fur- 
ther by the Libyan adoption of the Baath Party slogan of unity, 
freedom, and socialism. These ideals were embodied in the first 
revolutionary pronouncement of September 1, 1969, and reiterated 
in the Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969. They 
were afterward refined and modified in response to practical Lib- 
yan considerations. The ideal of freedom included the freedom of 
the nation and its citizens from foreign oppression. Freedom was 
considered to have been achieved by the Revolution and the sub- 
sequent negotiations that quickly ended the existence of foreign 
military bases in Libya. The ideal of freedom also encompassed 
freedom from want of the basic necessities of life and freedom from 
poverty, disease, and ignorance. In this regard, the ideal of free- 
dom called for the ideal of socialism. 

Libyan socialism has succeeded to the extent that social welfare 
programs have been subsidized by oil revenues. By all accounts, 
the Qadhafi regime has succeeded to an impressive degree in ful- 
filling basic human material needs (see Health and Welfare, ch. 2). 
Libya has also been relatively successful in achieving economic 


Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt (top ) 
was the ideological mentor of 
Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi 
(bottom ) 
Nasser photo 
Courtesy Embassy of Egypt 

Libya: A Country Study 

egalitarianism. To Qadhafi, such equality entails abolishing the 
conventional employer-employee relationship. Wage labor is re- 
garded as a form of slavery. Similarly, to prevent landlord-tenant 
relationships, no person may own more than one house. Further- 
more, because domestic servants are considered "a type of slave," 
the residents of a house should perform their own household work. 
To achieve economic justice, the slogans of "partners, not wage- 
earners" and "those who produce, consume" have been proclaimed 
and, to a significant degree, established. 

The Libyan revolutionary ideal of unity was Arab unity, the cause 
for which Qadhafi was the undisputed champion after the death 
of Nasser. Qadhafi believed that, through unity, Arabs had achieved 
greatness during the Middle Ages, when Arab accomplishments 
in the arts and sciences had overshadowed European counterparts. 
He further believed that foreign oppression and colonial domina- 
tion ended Arab unity; until it was restored, the Arab world would 
suffer injustice and humiliation, as it had when Palestine was lost. 
Qadhafi believed that the ideal of unity should be realized through 
practical steps, initial combinations of Arab states providing the 
nucleus for some form of ultimate unity. Toward this end he ini- 
tiated unity schemes between Libya and several other countries, 
but, as of 1987, none of the schemes had been successful (see For- 
eign Relations, this ch.). At the 1972 National Congress, Qadhafi 
likened the role of Libya in unifying the Arab nation to that of 
Prussia in unifying Germany and to that of Piedmont in unifying 

Although most Arab leaders share or sympathize with Qadhafi' s 
ideology of Arab unity, most consider as naive his ardent convic- 
tion that unity can be accomplished. Despite his transnational orien- 
tation, Qadhafi is parochial in his outlook. His beduin background, 
obviously a critical factor shaping his personality, inculcated a set 
of values and modes of behavior often at odds with prevailing inter- 
national norms. Therefore, he has been awkward at diplomatic give- 
and-take in comparison to other Arab leaders. For Qadhafi, no- 
madic life is preferable to urban ways because of its simplicity, per- 
vasive sense of egalitarianism, and puritanism unpolluted by 
modern, largely alien, cultural influences. 

Third Universal Theory 

In the early 1970s, Qadhafi began to synthesize and expand his 
ideas of Arab unity, independence, economic egalitarianism, and 
cultural authenticity into the Third Universal Theory. The impor- 
tance of this new theory to the regime was shown by the creation 
of the Higher Council for National Guidance on September 10, 


Government and Politics 

1972. The council comprised the RCC chairman; the ASU secre- 
tary general; the minister of education; the minister of informa- 
tion and culture; the minister of youth and social affairs; the minister 
of planning, the University of Libya's president; the administra- 
tive chairmen of religious endowments; the Muslim Call Society 
chairman, and the ASU secretary of thought and culture. 

The Higher Council for National Guidance was created to dis- 
seminate and implement Qadhafi 's Third Universal Theory (also 
seen as the Third International Theory or simply the Third The- 
ory). The Third Universal Theory was predicated on the belief that 
the two dominant socio-politico-economic ideologies — capitalism 
and communism — had been proved invalid. According to the the- 
ory, capitalism placed the good of a few individuals ahead of that 
of the community as a whole; communism so emphasized the com- 
munity that individual development was stifled. Nations constituting 
what is commonly referred to as the Third World were caught 
between proponents of the two ideologies: the United States and 
the Soviet Union, both of which, according to Qadhafi, were "im- 
perialist states which seek to achieve their ambitions by extending 
their zones of influence." 

Qadhafi proclaimed that the Third Universal Theory, because 
it was based on the Quran, predated capitalism and communism. 
Furthermore, it offered an alternative. It rejected the class exploi- 
tation of capitalism and the class warfare of communism, finding 
that, in practice at least, systems based on both ideologies were 
dominated by a small elite. According to the Third Universal The- 
ory, classes were an artificial colonial import. Far from building 
a system that rested on some form of class relations, the theory 
sought to eliminate class differences. It embodied the Islamic prin- 
ciple of consultation (shura), by which community or even national 
affairs would be conducted through mutual consultation in which 
the views of all citizens were exchanged. This principle was 
manifested later in Libya in the creation of people's committees 
and popular congresses (see Subnational Government and Adminis- 
tration, this ch.). 

The Third Universal Theory was an attempt to establish a 
philosophical grounding, based on Islam, for positive neutrality 
on the part of Third World nations. Under the theory, Third World 
states could coexist with the United States and the Soviet Union, 
and they could enter into agreements with them for their own pur- 
poses. But Third World states in general and Arab states in par- 
ticular should not fall under the dominance of either of the two 
ideological, imperialist superpowers. In dividing the world between 
the two superpowers and their supposed prey, the Third Universal 


Libya: A Country Study 

Theory anticipated much of what has come to be called the North- 
South interpretation of international relations, whereby the world 
is divided into natural-resource-consuming nations (the industri- 
alized North) and the natural-resource-producing nations (the 
underdeveloped South). Indeed, Qadhafi has championed this in- 
terpretation of international relations (see Foreign Relations, this 
ch.). Guided by this viewpoint, Libya has been a strong supporter 
of national liberation movements against colonial regimes, even 
though the terrorist tactics used by some groups have tarnished 
Libya's international reputation and led to economic sanctions and 
to military attacks in mid- 1986. 

Central to the Third Universal Theory are the concepts of religion 
and nationalism as embodied in Islam. Qadhafi believes that religion 
and nationalism have been the "two paramount drives that moved 
forward the evolutionary process. They constitute man's history 
as they have formed nations, peoples, wars." In short, Qadhafi 
believes that religion determines human actions and interactions. 

The atheism of the communists is another reason Qadhafi finds 
their ideology invalid. According to Qadhafi, communists cannot 
be trusted because they fear no ultimate judgment and thus may 
break their word if they consider it beneficial in any particular case. 
Islam, as the essence of monotheism, is the true religion that encom- 
passes Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of whom followed God's 
prophets. The differences among these religions exist not because 
of the prophets' teachings but because of differences among their 

According to Qadhafi, if religion is basic to the individual, na- 
tionalism is basic to the society. The Quran refers to tribes and 
nations that are inherent in the universe. A person belongs to a 
nationality upon birth. Only later does he or she become a con- 
scious member of a religion. Thus, Qadhafi faults those who deny 
the validity of nationality. His concept of nationality, therefore, 
relates to his concept of Arab unity. 

In this regard, Qadhafi adheres to the traditional, secularly based 
view of Arab nationalism propounded by such thinkers as Michel 
Aflaq, a founder and key political philosopher of the Baath Party, 
and Nasser. For Qadhafi, nationalism takes precedence over reli- 
gion. In a wide-ranging speech before the GPC meeting in Sabha 
on March 2, 1987, Qadhafi denounced Islamic fundamentalism 
as "nonsense" and stated that "no banner should be hoisted over 
the Arab homeland except the banner of pan-Arabism. " 

The Cultural Revolution 

Qadhafi was evidently disappointed with the failure of the Lib- 
yan populace to embrace and practice the principles of the Third 


Government and Politics 

Universal Theory. Characteristically impatient, by 1973 Qadhafi 
had grown critical of the people's lack of revolutionary commit- 
ment. He complained of the general refusal to fill positions in the 
military or to take jobs in the countryside (for which foreign workers 
had to be recruited), of students who wished to study only in the 
United States, and of an increase in the crime rate. Perhaps worst 
of all to Qadhafi was the apathy and reluctance with which a sig- 
nificant portion of the Libyan people greeted the impending Libyan 
merger with Egypt scheduled for September of 1973. He contended 
that such attitudes threatened the revolutionary advances antici- 
pated when the monarchy was overthrown. That action had 
changed the form of government, but if other fundamental social, 
economic, and political changes were to be accomplished, the people 
would have to be rededicated to the Revolution. Thus in an April 
15, 1973, speech at Zuwarah, Qadhafi proclaimed the Cultural 

The Cultural Revolution comprised five points: the annulment 
of all existing laws promulgated by the previous monarchical re- 
gime and their replacement by laws based on sharia; the repres- 
sion of communism and conservatism by purging all political 
deviates — those who opposed or resisted the Revolution, such as 
communists, atheists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, advo- 
cates of capitalism, and agents of Western propaganda; the distri- 
bution of arms to the people so that a popular resistance would 
protect the Revolution; administrative reform to end excessive 
bureaucracy, dereliction of duty, and bribery; and the promotion 
of Islamic thought by rejecting any ideas that were not in keeping 
with it, especially ideas imported from other countries and cultures. 
People's committees were established nationwide to enforce these 
policies and to control the Revolution from below (see Subnational 
Government and Administration, this ch.). If the people refused 
to participate in the popular Revolution, Qadhafi threatened to 
resign, a tactic he had used on several occasions. 

In May 1973, Qadhafi discussed the Cultural Revolution with 
foreign reporters and tried to stress its dissimilarity from the Chinese 
Cultural Revolution. According to Qadhafi, the Libyan Cultural 
Revolution — unlike the Chinese Cultural Revolution — did not 
introduce something new, but rather marked the return to the Arab 
and Islamic heritage. It represented a quest for authenticity in that 
it tried to forge or unearth linkages to the religio-cultural founda- 
tions of society. 

Several experts agree that Libya's Cultural Revolution struck 
a responsive chord in the Libyan psyche, similar to that struck by 
the rejection of Westernization in Iran. To a significant extent, 


Libya: A Country Study 

Qadhafi's insistence on a foreign policy independent of either super- 
power, his hostility toward Israel and its supporters, his search for 
an alternate model based on indigenous Muslim values, and his 
criticism of bureaucracy and consumerism were shared by the Lib- 
yan people. Qadhafi did not appear odd in the Libyan context, 
despite his image in the foreign media. Instead, as expert Lisa 
Anderson stated, he was "an uncanny reflection of the average 
Libyan. " 

The Green Book 

Qadhafi spelled out his prescriptions for the Libyan Cultural 
Revolution in The Green Book, which grew eventually to comprise 
three slim volumes. Many foreign observers who had compared 
Libya's Cultural Revolution to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 
naturally compared The Green Book to Mao's "little red book." Like 
Mao's red book, The Green Book has been widely distributed both 
inside and outside the country. Both are written in a simple, un- 
derstandable style with many memorable slogans. In size, both are 
rather modest, but their impact cannot be exaggerated. In a sense, 
The Green Book has vied with the Quran as the basis for Libya's 
development, much as the little red book attempted to supplant 
the Confucian system of thought. 

The Green Book, Part I 

In April 1974, Qadhafi relinquished his governmental duties to 
devote full time to ideological concerns and mass organization. A 
year later, he announced the reorganization of the ASU to include 
popular congresses, topped by the GPC. In March 1977, the GPC 
became, at least formally, the primary instrument of government 
in Libya. The reorganization of the ASU and the elevation of the 
GPC were carried out in conjunction with Qadhafi's political the- 
ories found in his work, The Green Book, Part I: The Solution of the 
Problem of Democracy. The Green Book begins with the premise that 
all contemporary political systems are merely the result of the strug- 
gle for power between instruments of governing. Those instruments 
of governing — parliaments, electoral systems, referenda, party 
government — are all undemocratic, divisive, or both. Parliaments 
are based on indirect democracy or representation. Representa- 
tion is based on separate constituencies; deputies represent their 
constituencies, often against the interests of other constituencies. 
Thus, the total national interest is never represented, and the 
problem of indirect (and consequently unrepresentative) democracy 
is compounded by the problem of divisiveness. Moreover, an elec- 
toral system in which the majority vote wins all representation 


Government and Politics 

means that as much as 49 percent of the electorate is unrepresented. 
(A win by a plurality can have the result that an even greater per- 
centage of the electorate is unrepresented; electoral schemes to pro- 
mote proportional representation increase the overall representative 
nature of the system, but small minorities are still left unrepre- 
sented.) Qadhafi also believes referenda are undemocratic because 
they force the electorate to answer simply yes or no to complex 
issues without being able to express fully their will. He says that 
because parties represent specific interests or classes, multiparty 
political systems are inherently factionalized. In contrast, a single- 
party political system has the disadvantage of institutionalizing the 
dominance of a single interest or class. 

Qadhafi believes that political systems have used these kinds of 
indirect or representative instruments because direct democracy, 
in which all participate in the study and debate of issues and poli- 
cies confronting the nation, ordinarily is impossible to implement 
in contemporary times. Populations have grown too large for direct 
democracy, which remained only an ideal until the formulation 
of the concepts of people's committees and popular congresses. 

Most observers would conclude that these organizations, like con- 
gresses or parliaments in other nations, obviously involve some 
degree of delegation and representation. Qadhafi, however, be- 
lieves that with their creation contemporary direct democracy has 
been achieved in Libya. Qadhafi bases this conviction on the fact 
that the people's committees and popular congresses are theoreti- 
cally responsible not only for the creation of legislation, but also 
its implementation at the grass-roots level. Moreover, they have 
a much larger total membership as a percentage of the national 
population than legislative bodies in other countries. 

In many ways, Qadhafi 's political ideology is part of the radical 
strain of Western democratic thought associated primarily with 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For, as scholar Sami Hajjar noted, Qa- 
dhafi 's notions of popular sovereignty are quite similar to the 
Rousseauian concept of general will. Both hold that sovereignty 
is inalienable, indivisible, and infallible. Both believe in equality 
and in direct popular rule. Thus, concludes Qadhafi, "the out- 
dated definition of democracy — democracy is the supervision of 
the government by the people — becomes obsolete. It will be replaced 
by the true definition: democracy is the supervision of the people 
by the people." 

The Green Book, Part II 

Qadhafi begins The Green Book, Part II: The Solution of the Eco- 
nomic Problem: "Socialism ," published during 1977, with a brief 


Libya: A Country Study 

examination of the relationship between workers (producers) and 
employers (owners). He recognizes that the lot of the worker has 
improved dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The worker 
has gained fixed working hours, overtime pay, different kinds of 
leave, profit sharing, participation in management, job security, 
and the right to strike. Drastic changes have also occurred in owner- 
ship, including the transference of private ownership to the state 
(see Income and Wealth, ch. 3). 

Despite these significant changes, however, the basic relation- 
ship between the producer, who is a wage earner, and the owner, 
who pays the wages, is still one of slavery. Even where the state 
owns the enterprise and the income derived from it reverts to the 
community, the plight of the wage earner, who contributes to the 
productive process for someone else's benefit, remains the same. 
Qadhafi's solution to the problem is to abolish the wage system. 
Rather than contributing to the productive process for the owner's 
benefit, or profit, the actual producer should be a partner in the 
process, sharing equally in what is produced or in the income 
derived from what is produced. 

Qadhafi believes that a person cannot be free "if somebody else 
controls what he needs" to lead a comfortable life. Thus, each per- 
son must fully possess a house, a vehicle, and an income. Individuals 
cannot be wage earners because someone else would then control 
their income. They cannot have an extra house to rent, for in rent- 
ing property they would be controlling a primary need of some- 
one else. According to Qadhafi, "The legitimate purpose of the 
individual's economic activity is solely to satisfy his [material] 
needs' ' ; it is not to create a surplus in order to gain a profit. Qadhafi 
maintains that profit and money will eventually disappear as basic 
human needs are met. The only provision for a differentiation in 
wealth is social reward, in which the society allocates to an individual 
a certain share of its wealth equivalent to the value of some special 
service rendered. 

The 1969 constitutional proclamation recognized both public 
ownership ("the basis of the development of society") and private 
ownership (so long as it was nonexploitive). The application of 
Qadhafi's new views on ownership began some months after pub- 
lication of Part II of The Green Book. In May 1978, a law was passed 
giving each citizen the right to own one house or a piece of land 
on which to build a house. Ownership of more than one house was 
prohibited, as was the collection of rent. On September 1 , the ninth 
anniversary of the September Revolution, Qadhafi called on workers 
to "free the wage earners from slavery" and to become partners 
in the productive process by taking over "the public and private 


Government and Politics 

means of production." The takeover of scores of firms followed; 
presumably the firms were to be controlled by the new people's 
committees. Still another aspect of the drive against exploitation 
was Qadhafi' s late-autumn ban on commercial retail activity. The 
Libyan leader advised retailers to enter productive occupations in 
agriculture or construction (see The Revolution and Social Change, 
ch. 2). However, the immediate practical result of these changes, 
was economic chaos and a significant decrease in production (see 
Income and Wealth, ch. 3). 

With regard to land, Qadhafi rejects the idea of private owner- 
ship. Drawing a distinction between ownership and use, he argues 
that land is the collective property of all the people. Every person 
and his heirs have the right to use the land to satisfy their basic 
needs. The land belongs to those who till it. To hire farm hands 
is forbidden because it would be exploitive. 

The Green Book, Part III 

In The Green Book, Part III: The Social Basis of the Third Universal 
Theory, published in 1978, Qadhafi reiterates and elaborates his 
view of nationalism and briefly discusses a few other subjects. 
Qadhafi argues that whereas Marx maintained that class struggle 
is the crucial variable accounting for change, it is nationalism that 
is "the real constant dynamic force of history." Qadhafi draws a 
sharp distinction between a state and a nation or nation- state. A 
state "embraces several nationalisms," and sooner or later will dis- 
integrate as various national movements clamor for independence 
or self-determination. A nation-state, consists of a group of peo- 
ple with a prolonged shared history, a common heritage, and "a 
sense of belonging to a common destiny." Ideally, "Each nation 
should have one religion," Qadhafi writes, to avoid the potential 
for conflicts. He believes that national unity is threatened by the 
resurgence of tribal or sectarian identities. Qadhafi points to the 
Lebanese civil war as an illustration of the triumph of sectarian- 
ism over nationalism. 

Part III of The Green Book also contains a discussion of such topics 
as the role of women, minorities, and education. "There is no differ- 
ence in human rights between men and women," Qadhafi declares. 
But a woman has "a natural role" that is different from the male's, 
namely motherhood. Children should be raised by their mothers, 
not sent to nurseries. Furthermore, a woman, who "is created beau- 
tiful and gentle," should not be forced by economic necessity or 
by a misguided call for equality to do a man's work, such as "car- 
rying heavy weights." 


Libya: A Country Study 

With regard to minorities, Qadhafi distinguishes between two 
types. One type belongs to a nation that provides it with a social 
framework, but also threatens to encroach on its social rights; the 
other type has no nation, forms its own social framework, and is 
destined eventually to constitute a nation by virtue of a sense of 

Qadhafi also gives his radical views of education. Qadhafi con- 
demns formal education as "an act of dictatorship destructive to 
freedom because it deprives people of their free choice, creativity, 
and brilliance." He proposes that "all methods of education prevail- 
ing in the world should be destroyed" and replaced with a system 
where "knowledge about everything is available to each person in 
the manner that suits them." 

Foreign Relations 

Paralleling the swift and fundamental domestic transformations 
Qadhafi initiated upon coming to power in 1969 were equally radical 
and controversial foreign policy changes. King Idris had been pro- 
Western, quiescent if not passive, and scarcely interested in pan- 
Arab issues. Qadhafi, in contrast, was markedly anti-Western, 
highly activist, and a strong advocate of Arab unity. Although 
Qadhafi' s internal policies could be ignored or tolerated by the rest 
of the world, regardless of their radicalism, his foreign policies 
elicited strong resentment and widespread condemnation from 
many quarters. Even the so-called "progressive" or revolution- 
ary regimes in Algeria, Iraq, and Syria that supported some of 
Qadhafi 's policies opposed his maladroit diplomacy, rhetorical 
excess, and provocative tactics. 

Allegations of Qadhafi 's involvement in subversive activities were 
numerous (see International Terrorism and Support for Insurgent 
Groups, ch. 5). Over the years, Libya has been accused of sub- 
version by several Arab countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, 
Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. For example, Libyan agents 
reportedly planned on several occasions to disrupt the pilgrimage 
at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And for many years Libya supported 
the mostly Christian rebels in southern Sudan, who are led by John 
Garang, as against the central government in Khartoum. Many 
observers linked Libya's lack of restraint in foreign affairs with its 
oil wealth, which paid for foreign adventures while keeping the 
domestic population content. 

By disregarding the rules of the international political game, 
Libya became so ostracized and isolated that when the United States 
bombed Libyan cities in April 1986, only a few countries con- 
demned the action strongly. Potential friends in the Arab world 


Government and Politics 

were already alienated by the constantly changing pattern of Lib- 
yan alliances. 

Nevertheless, Libya was subject to certain practical limitations. 
Its oil revenues were dependent on the world market and subject 
to inflationary pressures. Although well armed, Libya's military 
was undermanned, unable in most cases to support foreign policy 
initiatives by force. Libyan foreign policy was not so erratic and 
disjointed as it appeared, however. Instead, it was consistent with, 
and in large part based on, the initially proclaimed ideals of the 
Revolution and the developments that followed (see Political Ideol- 
ogy, this ch.). 

Libyan foreign policy grew from the historical legacy of colo- 
nial domination, Nasser's philosophy, and the creation of Israel. 
Qadhafi's concept of foreign relations has been influenced by his 
desire to promote Libya's role regionally and internationally and 
to see Libya play a leading role in countering Israel. For example, 
Qadhafi advocates Arab unity not only for ideological reasons, but 
because of his conviction that a unified Arab nation would be capa- 
ble of defeating Israel militarily. 

Qadhafi's worldwide support of revolutionary and insurgent 
movements evolved in part from the sponsorship and funding he 
provided to Palestinian organizations that fought against Israel. 
Moreover, Qadhafi's antipathy toward imperialism derives both 
from Libya's struggle against Italian colonialism and from the per- 
ceived creation of Israel by the United States and European powers. 
And, although Qadhafi espouses nonalignment, he has advocated 
a close Arab relationship with the Soviet Union as a means of 
obtaining arms to defeat Israel and excoriated the United States 
because of its support of Israel. 

Libyan foreign policy is not, however, dictated entirely by oppo- 
sition to Israel. Libya's activism in Africa and the Mediterranean 
basin is motivated by a desire to be a regional power. In the 1980s, 
Libya's reckless and adventurous intervention in the Third World 
was driven by Qadhafi's desire to disseminate his Third Univer- 
sal Theory and his personal aspirations for worldwide recognition. 

Arab Relations 

Qadhafi has been a leading proponent of Arab unity (qawmiya), 
calling for a union that would stretch from the Persian Gulf to the 
Atlantic Ocean. He believes that the members of such a union would 
have complementary resources: oil and other minerals, manpower, 
and space for population expansion. Apparently, Qadhafi views 
this union as taking the form of a strong federation, similar to those 


Libya: A Country Study 

of the United States and the Soviet Union, rather than as a uni- 
tary state. Qadhafi has said that ' 'it is ironic to see that Americans 
and Soviets, who are not of the same origin, have come together 
to create united federations, while the Arabs, who are of the same 
race and religion, have so far failed to realize the most cherished 
goal of the present Arab generation." Whether each Arab coun- 
try's borders are considered sacrosanct or "natural" in some histor- 
ical sense, over time, particularistic nationalisms have proved too 
powerful to be superseded by Arab unity. 

Pursuing unity on a step-by-step basis, Qadhafi has sponsored 
or joined ill-fated mergers with Egypt, Syria, and, most recently, 
Morocco. He also has called on Sudan, Algeria, and other coun- 
tries to participate in unity schemes. Since 1969 there have been 
seven unity attempts, all except one initiated by Libya. Less than 
four months after Qadhafi' s coup d'etat, Libya joined Egypt and 
Sudan in signing on December 27, 1969, the Tripoli Charter, which 
called for the formation of a "flexible federation." On January 1, 
1972, the Federation of Arab Republics, consisting of Egypt, Syria, 
and Libya came into existence. Yet another merger, accepted in 
principle in August 1972, between Egypt and Libya theoretically 
took effect on September 1, 1973. The union failed, however, 
because of disagreements over the timing and objectives of war and 
diplomatic alternatives to the conflict with Israel. In early 1974, 
a merger of Libya and Tunisia was proclaimed, only to be repudi- 
ated two days later by President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia. Look- 
ing once again toward the Mashriq (see Glossary), Qadhafi and 
President Hafiz al Assad of Syria proclaimed a unity of their two 
countries on September 10, 1980. In 1987, however, the unity pro- 
visions existed only on paper because neither side was willing to 
surrender its sovereignty. 

Turning his attention to his weak neighbor to the south, Qadhafi 
in 1981 proposed a merger plan with Chad. Goukouni Oueddei, 
then in power in N'Djamena, rejected the proposal and this merger 
plan, like all previous plans, failed to materialize. Since then, 
Libya's involvement in the Chadian civil war has deepened (see 
Invasion of Chad, ch. 5). 

Obsessed by the goal of pan-Arab unity, Qadhafi tirelessly, albeit 
thus far ineffectively, continued to seek partners. On August 13, 
1984, a marriage of convenience between Libya and Morocco was 
consummated with the signing of the Oujda Treaty. At the time 
of the treaty, Qadhafi was at odds with all the Arab states except 
Syria and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South 
Yemen), so the agreement signaled an end to Libyan isolation and 
revived Qadhafi' s ambitions of pan- Arab leadership. The treaty 


Government and Politics 

also restored Qadhafi's hope of extending the union to include 
Algeria and Tunisia as well as Syria. Such a scheme, he thought, 
could be the nucleus of a more complete pan-Arab union. Not sur- 
prisingly, dissolution of this union came as abruptly as its forma- 
tion. The visit of Shimon Peres, Israel's prime minister, to Morocco 
in July 1986 provided the main reason for the estrangement (also 
see Maghrib Relations, this ch.). 

Despite the failure of unification attempts, Qadhafi condemns 
Arab leaders who for various reasons opposed such schemes. 
Because they worked against his purported goal of achieving unity, 
Qadhafi's resorts to subversion, threats, and meddling in the inter- 
nal affairs of others proved unsuccessful and costly. Qadhafi's 
methods have alienated potential cooperators, frightened possible 
Arab union candidates, and, in the last analysis, isolated Libya 
in regional affairs. With ambitions of their own, and with differ- 
ing agendas and priorities, Arab governments have learned, at best, 
to tolerate the Libyan leader. Many resent his self-appointed role 
as philosopher-leader of all Arabs. Few, if any, are by tempera- 
ment given to impetuousness; therefore, they oppose Qadhafi's sud- 
den radical policy shifts. Nevertheless, the pan- Arab thesis 
championed by Qadhafi, that strength increases with unity, is still 
valid. It is also widely shared as a goal among Arabs, notwithstand- 
ing the aforementioned difficulties. 

Mediterranean Relations 

The Mediterranean basin is an area of major importance to Lib- 
yan military and political policy. Soon after the revolution, Libya 
called for the conversion of the Mediterranean Sea into a neutral 
"sea of peace" through the removal from the area of all foreign 
naval fleets and military installations, particularly North Atlantic 
Treaty Organization (NATO) bases. Libya repeated the call at the 
1973 Algiers conference of the Nonaligned Movement, and other 
countries, including neighboring Tunisia and Algeria, have sup- 
ported the idea. 

The keystone to Libya's Mediterranean neutralization policy is 
Malta. During the Anglo-Maltese negotiations in 1972 covering 
British bases on the island, Libya offered economic assistance to 
Malta if it would exact a pledge that the bases would not be used 
again to fly supply missions to Israel (as they had been used dur- 
ing the 1956 Suez Canal crisis and the June 1967 War). The rul- 
ing Labour Party government of Maltese Prime Minister Dom 
Mintoff negotiated such an agreement, and Libyan-Maltese eco- 
nomic relations began to expand. Libya encouraged immigration 
by Maltese workers, and Malta provided technical training for 


Libya: A Country Study 

Libyan- Maltese relations, on the whole, have been cordial. In 
the 1980s, Libya generally perceived Malta's foreign policy as posi- 
tive and friendly. Nevertheless, the issue of maritime boundaries 
between the two countries remained an irritant. It was finally 
resolved in mid- 1985 when the International Court of Justice at 
The Hague ruled in favor of Libya. As a result of this decision, 
Malta lost eighteen nautical miles to its southern neighbor. 

While pursuing relations with Malta, Libya continued to develop 
its overall Mediterranean policy. In mid- 1975, Libya and Turkey 
concluded several cooperative agreements and decided to estab- 
lish a joint ministerial committee. Plans were formulated to increase 
the number of Turkish workers in Libya from 6,000 to 60,000 by 
the end of 1976. The wave of expulsions of foreign workers in the 
fall of 1985, was evidently politically motivated as some 130,000 
people — primarily Egyptians, Tunisians, and Mauritanians — were 
expelled. Some 50,000 Turkish workers remained in Libya, 
however, alongside 15,000 workers from the Republic of Korea 
(South Korea) despite the obvious closeness of those two countries 
to the West generally and the United States in particular. 

Libyan relations with Cyprus and Greece have been largely har- 
monious. Late in 1973, Libya established diplomatic relations with 
Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios, then president of Cyprus, visited 
Libya in June 1975, where he recognized the Palestine Liberation 
Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the 
Palestinian Arabs. In early 1976 and again in mid- 1977, Greece 
and Libya signed economic and technical cooperation pacts. They 
also agreed to establish a joint ministerial committee. 

Maghrib Relations 

Although some analysts classify Libya as part of the Maghrib 
(see Glossary), only the province of Tripolitania shares a common 
history and culture with other Maghribi countries (see Islam and 
the Arabs, ch. 1). The lack of a Maghribi heritage, together with 
the Revolutionary government's predilection for Mashriq affairs, 
in 1970 caused Libya to withdraw from the Permanent Maghrib 
Consultative Committee, an organization founded by the Maghribi 
states to foster the eventual development of an economic commu- 
nity. Nonetheless, Libya pursued an active foreign policy toward 
the Maghrib, a policy that usually revolved around the issues of 
Arab unity and the Western Sahara dispute. 

During a December 1972 visit to Tunisia, Qadhafi publicly called 
for its merger with Libya. Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba 
rejected the idea and chided Qadhafi for his youthful naivete. In 


Government and Politics 

January 1974, only a few months after the failure of the Libyan- 
Egyptian merger, Qadhafi pursued a new unification plan during 
a meeting with Bourguiba at Jerba. Bourguiba first accepted the 
proposed Arab Islamic Republic, but then reversed his decision. 
He later stated that he had agreed only to the concept of eventual 
Maghribi unification, not to any specific bilateral union at the time. 
Relations subsequently deteriorated and became more strained in 
1975, when Tunisia supported the partition of the Western Sahara 
territory by Morocco and Mauritania. 

In March 1976, Libya began expelling several thousand Tuni- 
sian workers. Later the same month, Tunisian authorities an- 
nounced the discovery of a plot aimed at high government officials 
(perhaps even Bourguiba) and alleged that Libya was involved, 
despite Qadhafi 's denials. Tunisia later accused Libya of provid- 
ing military training to opponents of the Bourguiba regime. Now 
and then, Tunisia (as well as other neighboring countries) has pro- 
tested against alleged Libyan subversion attempts. In 1976, for in- 
stance, Tunisia charged Libya with attempting to assassinate Prime 
Minister Hedi Nouira. And in February 1980, Libya was accused 
of instigating the abortive uprising by Tunisian insurgents in the 
town of Gafsa in central Tunisia, a charge that Libya promptly 
denied. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations between the two coun- 
tries were severed. 

As Tunisia's economic and political difficulties grew in the 1980s, . 
dissent became more vocal, particularly in the poorer southern 
region, paving the way for increasing the links between the Jama- 
hiriya and the Tunisian dissidents. Two issues caused problems 
for the Libyan-Tunisian relationship. The first, concerning mari- 
time boundaries between the two North African countries, was set- 
tled by an International Court of Justice ruling in favor of Libya 
in 1982. The Court reaffirmed its ruling in 1985, at which time 
it rejected Tunisia's appeal for reconsideration. The second problem 
resulted from the expulsion from Libya in August 1985, of 40,000 
Tunisian workers, part of the downturn in the Libyan economy 
as a result of shrinking oil revenues. The expulsions were also par- 
tially based on political considerations because Qadhafi has consi- 
dered expulsions a political weapon with which to threaten 
uncooperative governments. In retaliation, Tunisia expelled 300 
Libyans, including 30 diplomats. 

In the early months of 1987, there were signs of improvement 
in Libyan-Tunisian relations. In March, Major Khuwayldi al 
Hamidi spent three days in Tunisia as official guest of the govern- 
ment and met with President Habib Bourguiba, Prime Minister 
Rachid Sfar, and other high-ranking officials. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Libya's closest Maghribi bilateral relationship has been with 
neighboring Algeria. Both countries share similar revolutionary 
Arab ideologies, state-controlled economic systems, and Organi- 
zation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil policies, and 
both have undertaken Third World leadership initiatives. Further- 
more, both countries have comparable relations with the United 
States and the Soviet Union. Algeria has concentrated on internal 
development, however, whereas Libya has pursued internal devel- 
opment and external activities almost equally. The two countries' 
bilateral ties were strained by Libya's 1974 attempt to merge with 
Tunisia, Algeria preferring to have its borders shared by relatively 
weak states rather than by states that have been strengthened and 
enlarged through unification. 

Although Libya and Algeria have been allies on the Western 
Sahara issue, differences in their positions became increasingly 
pronounced in late 1978. Both countries originally had pressed for 
Spanish evacuation from the area and supported the local indepen- 
dence group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia 
el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Popular por la Liberation de 
Saguia el Hamra y Rio de Oro — Polisario) toward this end. Algeria 
wanted the area to become an independent state. Libya felt Arab 
unity would be better served if the area merged with a larger state, 
preferably Mauritania, with which it had close relations at the time. 
(Libya had been the first country to recognize independent Maurita- 
nia; Mauritania was the first country to recognize Libya's Revolu- 
tionary regime.) Libya opposed the forceful repression of Western 
Saharan nationalism, however, and when Morocco and Maurita- 
nia decided to partition the area by force (Morocco obtaining the 
larger share), Libya joined Algeria in supporting Polisario's struggle 
against the two partitioning countries. Together with Algeria and 
thirty- six other countries, Libya has recognized the Saharan Arab 
Democratic Republic (SADR), formed in Algeria in 1976. Libya 
also supported the SADR's bid for membership in the Organiza- 
tion of African Unity (OAU), along with twenty-five other Afri- 
can states. 

Libyan-Moroccan relations have, on the whole, been unfriendly. 
A wide gulf separates moderate, monarchist, pro- Western Morocco 
from the revolutionary, pro-Soviet Jamahiriya. Rabat has often 
protested Tripoli's attempts at subversion, for example, during the 
1971 military coup attempt. Morocco's foreign policy goals have 
usually been at odds with those of Libya. Qadhafi, for instance, 
denounced Moroccan assistance to the government of Zaire when 
rebels staged an invasion from neighboring Angola. In an abrupt 
about-face, however, Morocco signed the Oujda Treaty in August 
1984, which called for unity with Libya. 


Government and Politics 

For Morocco's King Hassan II, the union restored the regional 
Maghribi balance of power, which had tilted in favor of Algeria, 
Morocco's main rival and the primary supporter of the Polisario. 
Algeria consistently supported the right of Western Saharans to 
self-determination in the SADR. The SADR was proclaimed on 
February 27, 1976, one day after the Spanish withdrawal. King 
Hassan put forward his country's claims over the former Spanish- 
ruled territory, led 350,000 of his citizens in 1975 on a peaceful 
* 'Green March" to key areas in the Saharan territory, and subse- 
quently occupied the former Spanish colony. 

In view of their sharp ideological differences, the accord between 
Qadhafi and King Hassan was evidently the result of expediency. 
The king expected to persuade the Libyan leader to cease supporting 
the Polisario and wanted access to Libyan oil. For his part, Qadhafi 
regarded Morocco as a source of human resources and support. 
Apparently, Qadhafi stopped his support of the Polisario, albeit 
only temporarily. 

Relations with Sub-Saharan Africa 

Libya's very active interest in sub-Saharan Africa has been 
directed toward isolating Israel diplomatically, liberating African 
countries under colonial or apartheid regimes, providing economic 
aid to developing African countries, and propagating Islam. Dur- 
ing 1972 and 1973, through bilateral relations and membership 
in the OAU, Libya and other Arab states successfully reversed 
Israel's formerly strong diplomatic position in Africa. Qadhafi drew 
a parallel between Israeli occupation of Arab territory and colonial- 
ism in Africa and frequently offered significant economic assistance 
to countries that would sever ties with Israel. By November 1973, 
twenty- seven African governments had broken relations with Israel, 
many declaring their support for the PLO in the process. 

Libya also has supported numerous black African independence 
movements, although the extent and nature of the support have 
not always been clear. Libyan support apparently was significant 
for Angola (where aid was first extended to Holden Roberto's 
National Front for the Liberation of Angola, and only later to 
Agostinho Neto's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, which 
defeated Roberto's group in a civil war), Guinea-Bissau, and 
Mozambique in their struggles against Portuguese colonialism. 
Libya continued to contribute funds to liberation efforts through- 
out 1978. Some sources report that nationalist guerrillas of both 
Zimbabwe and Namibia have received direct Libyan aid. 

For some time, Libya has had a special, if not always smooth, 
relationship with Uganda. Libya supported the government of Idi 


Libya: A Country Study 

Amin in exchange for Uganda's severance of relations with Israel. 
(A particularly close bilateral relationship had existed between Israel 
and the Ugandan regime Amin overthrew in 1971.) Libya came 
to Uganda's assistance in 1972, and again in 1978, when it air- 
lifted troops and supplies, thus demonstrating a certain degree of 
logistical capability. The aid proved militarily futile, however, as 
Libyan troops were routed quickly. For a brief period, the deposed 
Idi Amin found asylum in Tripoli. 


Libya's relations with Sudan, like relations with virtually all other 
Arab and African countries, fluctuated. Initially, Libya supported 
Sudanese President Jaafar an Numayri against an unsuccessful 
leftist coup attempt in 1971 . Libya turned over two of the top com- 
munist plotters to the Sudanese authorities, who executed them 
shortly afterward. However, a year later Sudan accused Libya of 
involvement in three successive coup attempts and severed diplo- 
matic relations. Relations began improving by the fall of 1977, as 
Numayri and Sudanese opposition leaders began a reconciliation. 
In February 1978, Libya and Sudan agreed to resume relations 
but relations soon became strained after Qadhafi condemned 
Sudanese support for President Anwar al Sadat of Egypt and for 
the Camp David accords of September 1978. 

Libya was particularly annoyed by the steadily improving rela- 
tions between Sudan and Egypt during the closing years of the 
Numayri regime, which culminated eventually in an Egyptian- 
Sudanese integration charter that provided Egypt with an air base 
in Sudan that could serve as a counterweight to Libyan regional 
power. Feeling threatened by the Cairo-Khartoum alliance and its 
alignment with the West, in August 1981 Qadhafi formed the 
Tripartite Alliance with Ethiopia and the PDRY (South Yemen), 
each of which was aligned closely with the Soviet Union. 

After Numayri' s fall from power in April 1985, Sudanese- Libyan 
relations improved. Qadhafi ended his aid to the Christian and animist, 
southern-based, Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led by 
Garang and welcomed the incoming government of General Sawar 
Dhahab. In July 1985, a military protocol was signed between the two 
countries, and Qadhafi was the first head of state to visit the new 
Khartoum government. Qadhafi then strongly supported Sudanese 
opposition leader Sadiq al Mahdi, who became prime minister on 
May 6, 1986. Nonetheless, the initial euphoria was subsequentiy 
replaced by Sudan's search for a truly neutral regional and global 
stance. With regard to the Chadian conflict, for instance, Mahdi 's 
government declared its neutrality and asked that Libyan forces 


Government and Politics 

be withdrawn from Sudanese territory. Prime Minister Mahdi's 
attempts to mediate the Libyan-Chadian conflict have so far proved 
unsuccessful, although delegations from the warring factions have 
met several times during 1986 and 1987, under Sudanese aegis. 


In 1975 Libya occupied and subsequently annexed the Aouzou 
Strip, a 70,000-square-kilometer area of northern Chad adjacent 
to the southern Libyan border. Qadhafi's move was motivated by 
personal and territorial ambitions, tribal and ethnic affinities 
between the people of northern Chad and those of southern Libya, 
and, most important, the presence in the area of uranium deposits 
needed for atomic energy development. 

Libyan claims to the area were based on a 1935 border dispute 
and settlement between France (which then controlled Chad) and 
Italy (which then controlled Libya). The French parliament never 
ratified the settlement, however, and both France and Chad recog- 
nized the boundary that was proclaimed upon Chadian inde- 

Qadhafi became entangled in factional rivalries among the var- 
ious Chadian groups. In the late 1970s, it appeared as though 
Libyan ambitions were being achieved. Goukouni Oueddei, a mem- 
ber of the Tebu Muslim tribe in northern Chad, was installed as 
president in April 1979 with Libyan support. In January 1981, the 
two countries announced their intention to unite. 

Goukouni' s overthrow in 1983 led to further Libyan involve- 
ment in Chad. From his Libyan exile, Goukouni reorganized his 
forces and occupied the strategic northern town of Faya Largeau. 
As the conflict drew in other players, particularly France, Chad 
was in effect a partitioned country. With French help, the 
N'Djamena government of Hissein Habre controlled the southern 
part of Chad. The area north of the sixteenth parallel, however, 
was controlled by Goukouni and his Libyan backers. According 
to the terms of a September 1984 treaty, France withdrew its forces 
from Chad. Libya, however, decided to keep its troops there, and 
skirmishes and fighting continued intermittently. 

The stalemate in Chad ended in early 1987 when the Habre forces 
inflicted a series of military defeats on the Libyans and their Chadian 
allies, at Fada, Ouadi Doum, and Faya Largeau (see Invasion of 
Chad, ch. 5). The press engaged in considerable speculation on 
the repercussions of these humiliations on Qadhafi and his regime. 
It was reported that Goukouni was being kept forcibly in Tripoli, 
and that, as a result of some disagreements with the Libyan leader, 
he was wounded by a Libyan soldier. Qadhafi's position had clearly 


Libya: A Country Study 

been weakened by these developments, and the long-term fight- 
ing in Chad aroused discontent in the Libyan army as well. 

Relations with Western Europe and the United States 

During the 1980s, Libyan relations with Western Europe and 
the United States have been generally strained. In the preceding 
decade, however, relations were relatively cooperative. Although 
the new regime required the closing of British and American mili- 
tary bases in Libya in 1970, its strident anticommunism pleased 
the Western powers. This policy orientation was confirmed in 1971 
when Libya supported Sudanese President Numayri against an un- 
successful leftist coup attempt. And at the 1973 conference of the 
Nonaligned Movement in Algiers, Qadhafi challenged the valid- 
ity of Fidel Castro's credentials as a nonaligned leader. 

Qadhafi believed that most West European nations had repudi- 
ated their imperialist legacy by the 1970s, a conviction that paved 
the way for increased trade, if not for cordial political relations. 
Libyan ties with Western Europe were for the most part commer- 
cial. The Federal Republic of Germany, for example, was a major 
purchaser of Libya's petroleum exports. Libya also purchased some 
military equipment from Western Europe, notably from France. 
Libya developed extensive commercial relationships with Italy and 
Britain. Commercial ties prospered for pragmatic reasons even as 
Qadhafi denounced the European Economic Community's trade 
relations with Israel and with NATO bases in the Mediterranean. 
On only several occasions have Libyan political considerations over- 
ridden the economic imperative, as in 1973 when Libya joined the 
Arab oil boycott that adversely affected several West European 
nations. For their part, the West European nations have likewise 
continued to trade with Libya despite proved Libyan involvement 
in terrorism on the continent. 


Libya developed particularly close relations with France after 
the June 1967 War, when France relaxed its arms embargo on non- 
front-line Middle East combatants and agreed to sell weapons 
to the Libyans. In 1974 Libya and France signed an agreement 
whereby Libya exchanged a guaranteed oil supply for technical 
assistance and financial cooperation. By 1976, however, Libya 
began criticizing France as an "arms merchant" because of its will- 
ingness to sell weapons to both sides in the Middle East conflict. 
Libya later criticized France for its willingness to sell arms to Egypt. 
Far more serious was Libya's dissatisfaction with French military 
intervention in the Western Sahara, Chad, and Zaire. In 1978 


Government and Politics 

Qadhafi noted that although economic relations were good, politi- 
cal relations were not, and he accused France of having reverted 
to a colonialist policy that former French president Charles de 
Gaulle had earlier abandoned. 

In the 1980s, Libyan-French discord centered on the situation 
in Chad. As mentioned, the two countries found themselves sup- 
porting opposite sides in the Chadian civil war. In late 1987, there 
were some French troops in Chad, but French policy did not per- 
mit its forces to cross the sixteenth parallel. Thus, direct clashes 
with Libyan soldiers seemed unlikely. 


Italy was one of Libya's major trading partners in the late 1970s. 
Relations with Italy, however, have been somewhat mercurial. In 
1973 Libyan aircraft strafed an Italian combat vessel patrolling an 
area in the Mediterranean where an earlier dispute had led to the 
detention of Italian fishing trawlers. Libya officially apologized for 
the strafing incident and relations improved in 1974 with Jallud's 
visit to Italy and the conclusion of several commercial and techni- 
cal agreements. However, there were three more incidents involving 
Italian fishing boats operating near the Libyan coast in December 
1975. Earlier that year, British press reports alleged that Libya was 
funding radical Italian political groups. 

Despite these frictions, relations improved in 1975 because agree- 
ment was reached regarding compensation for property lost when 
Italians left Libya under pressure after the 1969 Revolution. A 
major commercial transaction was completed in December 1976; 
Libya purchased more than 9 percent of the stock of the Fiat Com- 
pany, placing two representatives on Fiat's fifteen-member board 
of directors in the process. Increasing pressures were brought on 
Fiat, Italy's largest privately owned firm, by the Italian govern- 
ment and Western interests to buy back Libyan-owned stock shares, 
which by 1986 amounted to a 15.2-percent share in the firm. The 
Libyan government-owned Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Com- 
pany agreed to divest itself of the stock in September 1986, presuma- 
bly to generate revenue of over US$3 billion to compensate for lower 
Libyan oil revenues. 


Britain's relations with post-Revolutionary Libya were strained 
because of the close political, economic, and military relationship 
the British had cultivated with King Idris. After Qadhafi came to 
power, Britain suspended sales of military equipment, and Libya 
nationalized British Petroleum's interests, ostensibly in retribution 


Libya: A Country Study 

for perceived British complicity in the Iranian occupation of three 
Persian Gulf islands. Libya supported Malta during that country's 
negotiations regarding British military base leases. Libya also 
allegedly supported the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Neverthe- 
less, in an October 1978 address in Tripoli, Qadhafi stated that 
there were no differences so severe as to preclude the establishment 
of good relations with Britain. 

However, British-Libyan relations deteriorated markedly dur- 
ing the 1980s. A critical point was reached in 1984 when a British 
policewoman was killed by a gunman inside the Libyan People's 
Bureau (embassy) in London. This incident led to the breaking 
of diplomatic relations. Further discord followed the arrest of six 
British citizens in Libya, evidently in retaliation for the arrest of 
four Libyans in Manchester on charges stemming from March 1984 
bombings in London and Manchester. Relations plummeted when 
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher permitted United States air- 
craft to use British bases on April 15, 1986, for a strike on Libyan 

United States 

In the 1980s, Qadhafi came to regard the United States as the 
leader of Western imperialism and capitalism. He vigorously con- 
demned several United States policies — including military and eco- 
nomic support for Israel and support for a political settlement in 
the Middle East; resistance to the establishment of a new world 
economic order between resource producers and consumers; and 
support for relatively conservative, Western-oriented countries of 
the Third World, particularly Arab and African states. Since the 
Revolution, United States-Libyan relations have been limited to 
relatively modest commercial and trade agreements (see Foreign 
Trade, ch. 3). 

Libya has attempted to influence the United States through 
American oil companies operating within Libyan boundaries. Con- 
stant pressure on the companies concerning pricing and govern- 
ment participation eventually resulted in the Libyan state's 
assumption of a controlling interest in some firms and nationali- 
zation of others. The United States was the primary target of the 
oil boycott that Libya and other Arab states invoked after the 
October 1973 Arab-Israeli War. 

In addition to conflicts caused by Libyan oil policies, the United 
States and Libya have disagreements over Libyan claims to ter- 
ritorial waters. Since 1973 Libya has considered the Gulf of Sidra 
as territorial waters. Beyond that, Libya claimed another twelve 
nautical miles (approximately twenty kilometers) of territorial 


Government and Politics 

waters. The United States refused to recognize Libya's claim, and 
this refusal became a recurrent cause for contention between the 
two countries. Under President Jimmy Carter, the United States 
armed forces were ordered not to challenge Libyan claims by 
penetrating into the claimed territory, even though relations deter- 
iorated when, on December 2, 1979, the United States embassy 
in Tripoli was burned by demonstrators apparently influenced by 
the takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran. President 
Ronald Reagan's administration, however, was determined to assert 
the principle of free passage in international waters. 

In 1981 President Reagan began taking action against Libya. 
On May 6, 1981, the Reagan administration ordered the clos- 
ing of the Libyan People's Bureau in Washington, and twenty- 
seven Libyan diplomats were expelled from the United States 
for supporting international terrorism. Then, on August 19, 
1981, two Libyan Su-22 fighters were shot down by United States 
F- 14 jets during naval maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra. In Decem- 
ber President Reagan called on the approximately 1,500 Ameri- 
can citizens still living in Libya to leave or face legal action. In 
March 1982, oil imports from Libya were embargoed and tech- 
nology transfer banned. In January 1986, Libyan assets in the 
United States were frozen as part of a series of economic sanctions 
against Libya. 

United States- Libyan tensions erupted in April 1986. On April 5, 
Libyan agents planted a bomb in a Berlin nightclub frequented 
by United States service personnel. The explosion killed 2 people, 
1 an American serviceman, and injured 204 others. In retaliation, 
on April 15, the United States launched air strikes on Tripoli and 
Benghazi. As a result, a number of Libyan civilians were killed. 
Observers speculated that the attack was intended to kill the Libyan 
leader himself (see Encounters with the United States, ch. 5). 

The air strikes were certainly intended to encourage the Libyan 
military to overthrow Qadhafi. However, the air strikes were 
opposed by virtually all segments of the population, who rallied 
behind their leader. Moreover, not only did Qadhafi thrive on the 
public attention but his determination to stand up to a superpower 
threat appeared to have enhanced his stature. Even the major oppo- 
sition group abroad, the NFSL, denounced the use of force by for- 
eign powers in dealing with Libya, as did the London-based Libyan 
Constitutional Union. In 1987, a year after the raid, it was still 
unclear whether the raids had succeeded in countering terrorism. 
Observers were not certain whether Libya had actually adopted 
a new policy with regard to supporting terrorism, which seemed 
to have diminished considerably, or merely learned how to avoid 
leaving fingerprints. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 

During the early years of Qadhafi's regime, Libya pursued a 
genuinely nonaligned policy. Qadhafi perceived Soviet imperial- 
ism to be as great a threat to Libya in the politico-economic sphere 
as Western hegemony. Furthermore, communism's atheism was 
antithetical to Qadhafi's religious beliefs. Qadhafi approved of the 
1972 Egyptian expulsion of Soviet advisers and condemned the 
fifteen-year Iraqi-Soviet friendship pact signed the same year. 

Nevertheless, the Soviet Union, anticipating potential benefits 
from cultivating the newly established regime in Tripoli, quickly 
extended recognition three days after the coup. Notwithstanding 
the RCC's suppression of local communist elements and its stri- 
dent anticommunist rhetoric, the Soviets viewed with satisfaction 
the regime's gradually increasing anti-Western orientation. After 
it was obliged to withdraw Soviet personnel from Egypt in 1972, 
the Soviet Union's interest in Libya heightened significantly. When 
the Western powers stopped selling arms to Libya in 1974, the first 
Soviet arms sale to Qadhafi was concluded in December of that year. 

A major arms deal was concluded between Libya and the Soviet 
Union in 1975, costly enough that it apparently necessitated reduc- 
tions in spending on social welfare and economic development. 
However, Libya denied reports in the Egyptian press and elsewhere 
that the agreement granted the Soviet Union military bases on 
Libyan territory. As of 1987, these denials appeared to have been 
truthful, although reportedly around 3,500 Soviet and East Euro- 
pean military advisers were stationed in Libya (see Foreign Mili- 
tary Assistance, ch. 5). Libya's arms purchases, which by 1987 
had far exceeded the needs of its small armed forces, led some 
observers to conclude that Libya was serving as an entrepot for 
weapons destined for other points in Africa in which the Soviet 
Union was involved. But Libya's military debt to Moscow, esti- 
mated in 1986 at US$4 to US$6 billion, continued to be a source 
of difficulty in bilateral relations. 

Libya also has negotiated numerous economic, commercial, and 
cultural agreements with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. 
Agreements involving the exchange of Libyan oil for technical ex- 
pertise and equipment have been made with Poland, Czecho- 
slovakia, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic (East 
Germany), and Yugoslavia. East European countries also have con- 
tributed a significant number of medical personnel to Libya's health 
care program (see Medical Care, ch. 2). In addition, the East Ger- 
mans have played a key role in the late 1970s and 1980s in Libya's 
domestic intelligence field. Libya also has economic agreements 


Government and Politics 

with Romania but ties have been strained because of the latter' s 
relatively cordial relationship with Israel. 

Libyan-Soviet relations improved during the 1980s because both 
countries opposed the American-sponsored Middle East peace 
process. The Soviet Union was opposed primarily because of its 
lack of a role in the negotiations, but Libya considered the 1978 
Camp David accords as a betrayal of long-standing Arab and Pales- 
tinian aspirations. In view of the wide ideological gulf and policy 
differences between the two nations, the Soviet-Libyan relation- 
ship has been based primarily on mutual self-interest. Libya needed 
a source of arms and a counterbalance to the growing United States- 
Egyptian alliance. For the Soviet Union, Libya was an important 
source of hard currency (it was estimated that Libyan weapons pur- 
chases in 1980 represented 10 percent of Soviet hard-currency earn- 
ings), an irritant to its Western superpower rival, and a potentially 
useful destabilizer of the regional status quo. 

Although the Libyan-Soviet relationship continued to be close 
in the 1980s, Qadhafi was far too independent to be a submissive 
protege, despite his dependence on Moscow for military hardware. 
Instead, he insisted on following his own vision in domestic and 
international affairs. Many of his beliefs conflicted with Soviet doc- 
trines. For example, Qadhafi 's Third Universal Theory conflicted 
with the Marxist tenets of class warfare and the vanguard role of 
the proletariat. 

The lack of effective Soviet support to Libya during and after 
the United States raid in April 1986 underlined Moscow's reluc- 
tance to risk a confrontation with Washington by supporting 
Qadhafi too strongly. It was reported that the Soviets withheld vital 
intelligence information from Libya during the confrontation in 
the Gulf of Sidra. Moscow, however, reportedly was embarrassed 
by the ineffectiveness of Libya's Soviet-supplied air defenses. 

Multilateral Relations 

The United Nations 

Libya actively used regional and international organizations in 
pursuit of its foreign policies. Indeed, independent Libya was estab- 
lished in large part by UN actions. A member of the UN and most 
of its specialized agencies, Libya frequently brought such matters 
as colonialism and racism in Africa, Western imperialism, and 
North-South economic relations before the General Assembly. 
Libya also used the UN as a forum in which to attack Zionism 
and the state of Israel. Libyan pressure was a primary factor in 
the acceptance of the PLO's representation of the Palestinian Arabs 


Libya: A Country Study 

at the UN. Libya took an active part in UN affairs. For example, 
in November 1975, Qadhafi called for the abolition of the veto right 
held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. 
The following year, the Libyan press singled out United States' 
use of the veto for special criticism. Also in November 1975, the 
Libyan agriculture minister demanded the expulsion of the United 
States and Israel from the UN Food and Agriculture Organiza- 
tion. In March 1978, Libya took strong exception to the posting 
of UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon after the Israeli 
invasion of that area. The Libyan position, according to a GPC 
communique, was that "any acceptance of UN forces in the land 
adjacent to our occupied Palestinian land . . . [would mean] accep- 
tance of the Zionist presence and the bestowing of legitimacy on it. " 

The Organization of African Unity 

Libya has used the OAU to advocate the same policies it has 
espoused in the UN. During the early 1970s, Libyan diplomacy, 
including offers of economic assistance, resulted in most OAU mem- 
bers' severing diplomatic relations with Israel. Qadhafi has long 
condemned the apartheid policies of white regimes in Africa. In 
a 1973 message to all OAU members, he compared Zionist impe- 
rialism (i.e., continued Israeli occupation of Egyptian territory taken 
in the June 1967 War) with the policies of Portugal, Southern 
Rhodesia — now Zimbabwe — and South Africa. He demanded that 
members boycott a coming OAU meeting and that OAU head- 
quarters be removed from Addis Ababa if Ethiopia (then under 
the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie) did not break relations with 
Israel. His demand was ignored; many OAU members, both Arab 
and African, saw it as a clumsy attempt to politicize the organiza- 
tion. Such differences notwithstanding, Libya has been a major 
supporter of African independence movements within and outside 
the OAU framework. 

At the February 1978 OAU ministerial council meeting in 
Tripoli, Libya (already a member of the OAU Liberation Com- 
mittee) was made a member of a new military committee. Other 
members of the new committee included the front-line countries 
against colonialism in southern Africa: Botswana, Angola, Mozam- 
bique, Zambia, and Tanzania. The committee's purpose was to 
obtain and provide sophisticated weaponry for the black African 
national liberation movements. It was at the ministerial council 
meeting that Qadhafi called for the inclusion of several West 
European island possessions in the African liberation movement. 

Qadhafi did not fare as well in the OAU in the 1980s. In 1981 
the organization approved Qadhafi as the host of the next OAU 


Government and Politics 

conference. Qadhafi's bid was frustrated twice, however. First, 
Morocco and its allies boycotted the Tripoli meeting because of 
the SADR's attendance. Then, in November 1982, the conference 
lacked a quorum when many delegations boycotted it because of 
the controversy surrounding the Qadhafi-sponsored Chadian 
representation. Qadhafi's third attempt to become OAU chairman 
in 1983 also failed when delegations wary of Qadhafi's unpredic- 
table and extremist policies selected Ethiopia for the next confer- 
ence site and chairman. Still, Qadhafi is usually supported by the 
more radical states such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and 

At the 1986 conference of the Nonaligned Movement in Harare, 
Zimbabwe, the Libyan position was endorsed when the conference, 
which included many OAU countries, denounced the United States 
bombings of April 1986. At the same conference, however, 
Qadhafi's denunciation of the whole stance of nonalignment caused 
great embarrassment to the conference hosts and failed to win any 
real conference support. 

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the 
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries 

Libya joined OPEC in 1962. Since the Revolution, Libya has 
played a prominent role in negotiations with the multinational oil 
companies, succeeding in significantly increasing the producers' 
revenues from oil production. Libya also has lobbied, without nota- 
ble success, for the investment of petroleum profits in Third World 
nations rather than in industrialized countries. 

Libya has pursued the same general policies within the Organi- 
zation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), of which 
it is a founding member. In 1972 Libya recommended an amend- 
ment to the OAPEC membership eligibility requirements, chang- 
ing the stipulation that oil be "the major and basic source" to 
merely "an important source" of a country's national income. As 
a result of the adoption of that amendment, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt 
joined OAPEC later in the year. Libya has been an advocate of 
the use of oil as a political weapon; it enthusiastically backed 
OAPEC 's oil embargo of the United States and the Netherlands, 
as well as the production reduction affecting most other West 
European countries after the October 1973 War. Libya unsuccess- 
fully resisted OAPEC 's decision to remove the embargo in March 

Other Multilateral Organizations 

Libya is a member of several other regional and international 
groups, including the League of Arab States (Arab League), the 


Libya: A Country Study 

Islamic Conference, the Arab-African Development Bank, and the 
Islamic Development Bank. As a leading member of the Third 
World movement, it has been a strong proponent of the establish- 
ment of a new world economic order between North and South. 

Nuclear Development 

Qadhafi' s stance on nuclear weapons has been contradictory. 
Unconfirmed but persistent press reports beginning soon after the 
1969 Revolution indicated that Libya wanted to purchase a nuclear 
weapon or the components for such a device. According to one 
report, Qadhafi sent his deputy, Jallud, to Beijing (formerly Peking) 
in an unsuccessful attempt to purchase tactical nuclear weapons. 
Qadhafi has voiced his concern over the Israeli nuclear capability 
and publicly expressed his desire to obtain nuclear weapons. 
Nevertheless, in 1975 Libya reaffirmed its commitment to the 1968 
Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed originally 
by the monarchy in 1968 (see Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 5). 
Qadhafi also stated in interviews in 1981 and 1984 that Libya was 
only interested in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, and 
he scoffed at the idea of "an Islamic bomb." 

There is no doubt, however, that Libya has undertaken exten- 
sive bilateral negotiations to secure nuclear research facilities and 
power plants, and many Libyan students in nuclear energy fields 
have been sent to United States, West European, and East Euro- 
pean universities to further their studies. According to the terms 
of a 1974 nuclear cooperation treaty with Argentina, Libya was 
provided with equipment and technical training. Argentina agreed 
to send senior geologists to Libya to advise on uranium prospect- 
ing and uranium enrichment. One alleged reason Libya occupied 
the Aouzou Strip in Chad in 1975 was that the area was thought 
to be rich in uranium deposits. Libya and India agreed in July 
1978 to cooperate in the peaceful application of nuclear energy, 
in line with India's "atoms for peace" policy. Libya also contributed 
money to Pakistan's nuclear effort. France agreed in 1976 to build 
a nuclear research plant in Libya designed to power a water desali- 
nation plant. 

Libya's main partner in the nuclear field, however, has been 
the Soviet Union. A small (ten megawatt) Soviet-supplied reactor 
began operation in Tajura (outside Tripoli) in 1981. Three years 
later, a research center was opened at the same site; aided by Soviet 
staff, it continued to operate in 1987. In early 1986, however, a 
plan for the construction of nine 440-megawatt nuclear power plants 
was suspended indefinitely. 


Government and Politics 

In the 1970s, relatively few scholarly books were published about 
Libya. For a study of the early years of the Libyan Revolution, 
Ruth First's Libya: The Elusive Revolution is perhaps the single most 
authoritative source. Henry Pierre Habib's Politics and Government 
of Revolutionary Libya, though likewise dated, contains useful infor- 
mation, although it is biased favorably toward the regime. In the 
early 1980s, several important books filled the vacuum of infor- 
mation on Libya. Libyan Sandstorm by John K. Cooley, published 
in 1982, provides an entertaining yet meticulously researched jour- 
nalistic account of the activities of the Qadhafi regime. Qaddafi and 
the United States Since 1969 by P. Edward Haley, published in 1984, 
provides a comprehensive and detailed description of Libyan for- 
eign policy, particularly insofar as it affects United States interests. 
In 1986 and 1987, as Libya became more newsworthy, a spate 
of new books were published on the topic. Among these, Libya: 
Qadhafi s Revolution and the Modern State by Lillian Craig Harris pro- 
vides an excellent general overview of the situation in Libya. Qaddafi 
and the Libyan Revolution by David Blundy and Andrew Lycett is 
a highly critical and well documented probe of Libyan-sponsored 
terrorism. Jonathan Bearman's Qadhafi 's Libya is a sympathetic yet 
informative analysis of the Libyan Revolution. The Making of a Pariah 
State: The Adventurist Politics of Muammar Qaddafi by Martin Sicker 
concentrates on Libyan foreign relations. The State and Social Trans- 
formation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 by Lisa Anderson looks 
at Libya in a larger historical context. Qaddafi: His Ideology in The- 
ory and Practice by Mohamed A. El-Khawas focuses on Qadhafi 's 
thought. With regard to the latter topic, the English language trans- 
lation of Qadhafi 's three- volume The Green Book is widely available. 
Likewise, as a primary research source, an English language ver- 
sion of the Libyan newspaper Az Zahf al Akhdar is available. 

Because of the rapid pace of political change in Libya, books 
soon become outdated, and to obtain recent information on the 
subject one must rely on news media, in which Libya is well cov- 
ered. For further detail, one must turn to specialized periodicals 
such as Africa Confidential, African Economic Digest, Africa Research Bulle- 
tin, Middle East Economic Digest, the Economist Intelligence Unit Quar- 
terly Reports on Libya, and the chapters on Libya in the annual Middle 
East Contemporary Survey. French-language sources include Le Monde 
Afrique and Jeune Afrique. (For further information and complete 
citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 5. National Security 

A Libyan surface-to-surface missile supplied by the Soviet Union 

BEFORE THE COUP that brought Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi 
to power in 1969, Libyan national security clearly meant protec- 
tion of the reign of King Idris and of the national development 
goals his regime had adopted. Insurance against potential exter- 
nal threats was sought through various compacts with Western 
powers — principally the Libyan-United Kingdom Treaty of Friend- 
ship of 1953, which granted the British continued use of their World 
War II Al Adem (Al Adam) Air Base near Tobruk (Tubruq). A 
similar treaty in 1954 perpetuated use of Wheelus Air Base, near 
Tripoli, by the United States Air Force. Meanwhile, the monarchy 
devoted its own resources to the business of warding off domestic 
threats — largely arising from its faction-ridden army. 

After Idris was deposed, Qadhafi insisted on the early termina- 
tion of the treaties that gave Britain and the United States permis- 
sion to maintain forces on Libyan soil. The country's energies were 
turned to the cause of pan-Arabism and to supporting fellow Arab 
countries in their conflict with Israel. The armed forces were dou- 
bled in size but, until 1973, the expansion was grounded on a 
reasonable balance that took into account the country's available 
resources and the fact that its neighbors were neither aggressive 
nor naturally hostile. Qadhafi became frustrated over Egypt's failure 
to consult with Libya in prosecuting the 1973 war against Israel 
and the fading of his pan-Arabist ambitions in the failure of the 
unions concluded with Egypt and Syria and later Tunisia. New 
revenues derived from the escalating price of oil were now avail- 
able, and the Soviet Union was prepared to supply arms that 
Western powers had vetoed. For Moscow, the appeal was, first, 
the commercial one of a cash customer and, second, the potential 
of Libya as a new client state in the Mediterranean area, follow- 
ing the Soviet 1972 expulsion from Egypt. 

Only gradually did the extent of Qadhafi 's arms appetite become 
apparent. To Libya's existing fleet of Mirage aircraft from France, 
large numbers of Soviet fighters were added, including the up-to- 
date MiG-25. Although Libya had only 7 percent of the popula- 
tion of France, Libya's inventory of over 500 combat aircraft was 
roughly equivalent to that of France. A force of 3,000 tanks was 
purchased, although only one-third could be deployed with active 
units. Its hitherto inconsequential navy was outfitted with subma- 
rines and high-speed missile boats. Because voluntary enlistments 
were wholly inadequate to man the new equipment, conscription 
was introduced in 1978. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Because the inflated arsenal could not be justified by any per- 
ceived threat to the nation's borders, there was initial speculation 
that Libya was becoming a Soviet surrogate in Africa, stockpiling 
modern weapons for future adventures on that continent. This 
notion, however, was contradicted by Libya's evident determina- 
tion to employ its newly purchased arms as it saw fit. Its align- 
ment with Moscow, although based on parallel interests, was a 
limited one that did not extend to Soviet bases on Libyan soil. 

In the decade between 1973 and 1983, arms acquisitions amounted 
to US$28 billion, of which US$20 billion worth had originated with 
the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But the quantity and sophisti- 
cation of the new weaponry outstripped the ability of the limited 
skilled personnel to employ it. In spite of a multitude of foreign 
technical advisers and trainers, a shortage of qualified personnel 
needed to operate and maintain the military hardware persisted. 
Moreover, the wide range of models and countries of manufac- 
ture has created logistics and maintenance problems. 

The Libyan armed forces have not, in fact, thus far played a 
significant role in Qadhafi's declared objective of the destruction 
of Israel by united Arab might because Libya's direct involvement 
in the Arab-Israeli wars has been negligible. Nonetheless, Qadhafi 
often has been a divisive element in the Middle East. 

Libya's acknowledged sponsorship of terrorism for the purpose 
of "liquidating" exiled opponents of the regime and of punishing 
moderate Arabs and others regarded as opposing the primary pur- 
pose of defeating Israel has brought it into conflict with the West 
and particularly the United States. Hostile encounters with United 
States military, especially the American retaliatory bombing attack 
of 1986, demonstrated serious weaknesses in Libya's threat per- 
ception and defense posture. The incidents, however, caused many 
African and Middle Eastern countries briefly to band together in 
public support of Libya and in condemnation of the United States. 

By early 1987, some observers believed that Qadhafi's hold on 
the Libyan public had waned, owing to his radical and sometimes 
bizarre policies in the name of the Libyan Revolution. Yet oppo- 
sition groups, consisting mostly of Libyan exiles, have been ineffec- 
tive. The main threat to Qadhafi's continued rule came from the 
army itself. Numerous plots and coup attempts have been uncov- 
ered, most of which have not seriously threatened Qadhafi's author- 
ity. Distrustful of the professional military, Qadhafi often shifted 
senior officers from one post to another to prevent the officer corps 
from closing ranks. In addition, he entrusted his personal security 
to a handpicked detachment from his own region. A comprehen- 
sive internal security system involving police, secret service, and 


National Security 

local revolutionary committees was alert to any indications of dis- 
loyalty or conspiracies. Any form of dissent from the policies of 
the government was deemed contrary to the Revolution and sub- 
ject to severe punitive measures. 

Origins of the Modern Armed Forces 

The roots of the contemporary Libyan army can be traced to 
the Libyan Arab Force (popularly known as the Sanusi Army) of 
World War II. Shortly after Italy entered the war, a number of 
Libyan leaders living in exile in Egypt called on their compatriots 
to organize themselves into military units and join the British in 
the war against the Axis powers. Five battalions, which were ini- 
tially designed for guerrilla warfare in the Jabal al Akhdar region 
of Cyrenaica, were established under British command. Because 
the high mobility of the desert campaigns required a considerable 
degree of technical and mechanical expertise, the Libyan forces 
were used primarily as auxiliaries, guarding military installations 
and prisoners. One battalion, however, participated in the fight- 
ing at Tobruk. 

After Britain succeeded in occupying the Libyan territories, the 
need for the British-trained and -equipped Sanusi troops appeared 
to be over. The Sanusi Army was reluctant to disband, however, 
and the majority of its members arranged to be transferred to the 
local police force in Cyrenaica under the British military adminis- 
tration. When Libya gained its independence in 1951, veterans 
of the original Sanusi Army formed the nucleus of the Royal Lib- 
yan Army. 

Until the discovery and exploitation of oil, beginning in the late 
1950s, Libya was one of the poorest countries in the world. Lim- 
ited available natural resources and a small population provided 
little basis for viable defensive strength, and the new state was 
militarily insignificant during its early years. King Idris deliber- 
ately divided the security forces into a regular army and a variety 
of armed police forces. The primary mission of the armed police 
was to counterbalance dissidents within the faction-torn armed 
forces and thus preclude a coup against the monarchy. 

With substantial British assistance, the army was slowly enlarged, 
and by September 1969 its strength was estimated at roughly 
6,500 — about half the size of the armed police. The police forces, 
composed mainly of conservative tribal elements that the king con- 
sidered more reliable than the regular army, were extremely diverse. 
They ranged from several lightly armed territorial forces to the 
mobile National Security Force, which was equipped with helicop- 
ters and armored cars. Units of the prestigious Cyrenaican Defense 


Libya: A Country Study 

Force, assisted and advised by British military specialists, were gar- 
risoned at several places in Cyrenaica. 

The small naval and air components were not developed until 
later. The navy was established in November 1962, and the air 
force was formed in August 1963. Consisting initially of only a few 
aircraft and two pilots, by 1967 the air force had increased to about 
250 American-trained personnel and a few jet trainers and piston- 
engine transports. After the June 1967 War, demand for more 
sophisticated aircraft resulted in the purchase of ten American F-5 
fighter-bombers in 1968 and 1969. Throughout this early period, 
the British were influential in the development of the Libyan navy, 
which, however, grew extremely slowly and even by the time of 
Qadhafi's coup in 1969 consisted of just over 200 men. 

Partly because of the limited resources in trained personnel locally 
and partly because the monarchy was suspicious of the professional 
military, the idea of purchasing a sophisticated air defense missile 
system and training a few specialists in its operation gained popular- 
ity among the king's nonmilitary advisers. In 1968 the government 
entered into a contract with Britain for the installation of an air 
defense system to be delivered over five years at a cost of almost 
US$300 million. Under the contract, the British agreed to supply 
a complex antiaircraft missile system and radar detection and control 
equipment and to train Libyans to operate them. The high prior- 
ity assigned to this project and the unprecedented expense involved 
were reflected in an accompanying decision to postpone the intro- 
duction of the monarchy's second five-year development plan until 
April 1969. Idris, however, was unwilling to disrupt the balance 
between the army and the police by providing the military element 
with tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers, recognizing 
that such equipment could be employed against his regime as eas- 
ily as against a hostile external force. Ironically, when Qadhafi and 
his Free Officers Movement mounted their overthrow of the monar- 
chy, the ostensibly reliable police did not interfere. 

Assuming power after the 1969 coup, the new Qadhafi regime 
integrated major elements of the police into the army. Although 
he canceled the British air defense project, Qadhafi began to build 
up the country's military strength through large equipment pur- 
chases from foreign suppliers. In 1970 the government contracted 
to buy 110 Mirage jet fighters from France. Thereafter, the air 
force grew rapidly and became an important component of the 
armed forces. Similar purchases provided tanks and artillery for 
the army and vessels for the navy. 

Within a year after the coup, the size of the military establish- 
ment was estimated at about 22,000 men— over three times the 


National Security 

figure immediately before the coup. Although this increase followed 
a major recruitment effort, it was primarily the result of the merger 
of the regular army with most of the former National Security Force 
and the Cyrenaican Defense Force, which between them had com- 
prised about 14,000 troops. 

In 1971 the government announced the creation of the Popular 
Resistance Force, a militia that was under the operational control 
of the chief of staff of the Libyan armed forces. Initially, the primary 
mission of the force was to guard government buildings, oil instal- 
lations, and other important facilities in the event of war or inter- 
nal disorders. 

Less than a year after the 1969 coup, Qadhafi and his fellow 
Free Officers assumed control of British and United States bases 
in Libya and began to sever military supply links with those coun- 
tries. France, politically less objectionable to Qadhafi, became the 
leading source of arms but, in 1974, Libya reached agreement with 
the Soviet Union for the purchase of equipment on a scale well 
in excess of France's production capacity, even if France had not 
been deterred by Qadhafi 's increasingly radical and irrational 
behavior. Tremendous quantities of modern Soviet armaments were 
delivered beginning in 1975, and the flow was continuing in 1987. 
In spite of the fact that thousands of advisers from the Soviet Union 
and other communist countries helped with manning, maintenance, 
and training in the use of the new equipment, the sheer quantity 
overwhelmed the ability of the Libyan armed forces to introduce 
it into operational units. 

Prodigious importation of new weapons systems was accompa- 
nied by a rapid buildup of manpower. When voluntary enlistments 
proved inadequate, the government invoked a conscription law call- 
ing for three to four years service for all males between the ages 
of seventeen and thirty-five. Consequently, the armed forces more 
than doubled in strength between 1974, when the first arms agree- 
ment with the Soviet Union was concluded, and 1986, when the 
total manpower of the three services was estimated at over 90,000. 
In addition to creating the most highly mechanized army among 
the Arab nations, by the late 1980s Qadhafi had procured a fleet 
of submarines, corvettes, and missile boats that constituted a sig- 
nificant new naval force in the Mediterranean. The Soviet Union 
had also supplied Libya with modern fighter aircraft, a bomber 
and transport force, and a sophisticated air defense system. 

The Military Leadership 

The group of junior officers who seized power in 1969 wanted 
to introduce a radical form of Arab and Islamic socialism. The 


Libya: A Country Study 

Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) of Qadhafi and eleven 
other officers assumed formal responsibility for drawing up general 
policies. The initial civilian cabinet was frustrated by the RCC's 
insistence on reviewing all of its decisions. After its resignation, 
a new cabinet in January 1970 had Qadhafi as prime minister, 
Major Abdul Salaam Jallud as deputy prime minister, and other 
RCC members in key ministerial positions. 

Although the RCC always spoke with one voice and Qadhafi 
and his associates generally succeeded in instilling a spirit of unity 
and discipline among the military, there was internal dissent. Differ- 
ences came into the open in 1975 because of disagreement over 
the priority being given to armament purchases over domestic social 
needs in the use of oil revenues. As a result, the minister of plan- 
ning was dismissed, and others left their posts. By late 1975, only 
five of the original twelve members were still serving on the RCC. 

Officially phased out in 1977, the RCC was succeeded by the 
General Secretariat of the General People's Congress (GPC). At 
first this new policy-setting body was little more than the RCC 
under a new name. In the reorganization of 1979, however, when 
Qadhafi relinquished his position as secretary general, Jallud was 
replaced by a civilian as deputy secretary general and the other 
three military members of the General Secretariat were likewise 
replaced by civilians. They continued to serve as senior policy 
advisers to Qadhafi, although their public role was curtailed. 

In 1987, the most senior positions of the military hierarchy were 
held by members of the original RCC. Qadhafi retained the title 
of supreme commander of the armed forces. General Abu Bakr 
Yunis Jabir was commander in chief of the armed forces. Major 
Khuwayldi al Hamidi was chief of the general staff and headed 
the People's Militia or People's Army (formerly the Popular 
Resistance Force.) Colonel (formerly General) Mustafa al Kharrubi 
was inspector general of the armed forces and commandant of the 
navy and air force. Major Jallud held no military position, but he 
headed the revolutionary committees and was acknowledged to be 
Qadhafi 's second in command. 

In the course of the post-coup reorganization of the military into 
a single unified command, the RCC retired or fired — for political 
reasons — the entire leadership of generals and colonels along with 
a number of officers of lesser rank identified with the Idris regime. 
Qadhafi and the other RCC members maintained that the former 
military leaders had been involved extensively in various forms of 
corruption, particularly in arms-procurement contracts. In addi- 
tion, the former high command had been largely in agreement with 
the monarchy's position on such issues as the continued presence 


National Security 

of British and United States military bases on Libyan territory and 
the country's rather limited involvement in the Arab-Israeli 

The former military leadership was also believed to have toler- 
ated and in many instances to have profited personally from a 
recruitment and promotion system that awarded high posts to indi- 
vidual tribal leaders and members of influential families. Senior 
officers were chosen not on the basis of military qualities or expe- 
rience, but rather because of personal loyalty or political favors 
provided to King Idris or in recognition of their political and reli- 
gious conservatism. These factors, which had brought the senior 
officers their initial commissions and subsequent promotions, caused 
much of the low morale among junior officers and contributed to 
the eventual overthrow of the monarchy. 

Unlike the former military leaders, many of whom were from 
the middle and upper classes, and by virtue of their social status 
could just as easily have chosen higher education or the bureaucracy 
as routes to advancement, most of the RCC officers were from the 
lower strata of society. For them, the most logical source of upward 
mobility under the monarchy had been the military. Of the origi- 
nal RCC members, most of whom were in their mid-twenties at 
the time of the 1969 uprising, approximately half were from tribal 
or peasant backgrounds. They reflected the country's three tradi- 
tional geographic divisions, with roughly one- third coming from 
each of the major regions — Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. 

In political outlook, the military leadership that rose to power 
after 1969 has been described as both soldier-revolutionary and 
ardent pan-Arabist. In published interviews, the senior officers, 
particularly Qadhafi, recalled that their identification with the goal 
of regional Arab unity and the adoption of a more militant posture 
toward Israel dated from their secondary school years, when their 
hero was Egypt's President Gamal Abdul Nasser. 

The new military leaders frequently emphasized their passion- 
ate commitment to the moral tenets of Islam and to their own con- 
cept of Islamic socialism. Qadhafi and the other senior military 
figures became the dominant influence group in the country, 
representing both the modernizing and the traditional aspects of 
national life. On the one hand, they have been committed to modern- 
ization, reflected in their acquiring technical military equipment 
and sophisticated weaponry and training personnel to operate and 
maintain them. Commitment to modernization also was demon- 
strated by their continuing emphasis on improving the literacy rate 
and on the development of technical skills and training. On the 
other hand, many of the top officers, including Qadhafi, have 


Libya: A Country Study 

remained proud of their desert backgrounds, their religious con- 
victions, their social relationships, and their traditional belief in 
the overall primacy of Arab and Islamic attitudes and values. One 
important exception to emphasis on traditional values has been 
Qadhafi 's desire for a role for women in the armed forces, a proposal 
that was rejected by the normally obedient GPC. 

International Military Concerns and Objectives 

Libyan Security Concerns 

In little more than a decade, Qadhafi effected a transformation 
of Libya into a militarized nation. The armed forces were rapidly 
expanded, acquiring greatly enhanced firepower and mobility. The 
able-bodied civilian population was formed in well-equipped militia 
units. Libya's new military establishment and arsenal have enabled 
Qadhafi to project his radical vision and ambitions beyond the coun- 
try's borders. In spite of frequently irrational and inconsistent 
behavior, he has advanced Libya to the forefront of politics in North 
Africa and thrown its weight against peaceful settlement in the 
Middle East. 

As affirmed by Qadhafi's public statements, his primary pur- 
pose in the Libyan arms buildup is destruction of Israel. The armed 
forces, however, have not been shaped to confront Israel directly 
nor has Qadhafi been eager to commit Libya to battle with Israel 
in alliance with other Arab powers. To a limited extent, he has 
used his arms inventory as a stockpile, supplying weapons selec- 
tively to those countries and groups most opposed to Israel's exis- 
tence. His rhetoric has been devoted to appeals to develop a 
combined Arab and Islamic force strong enough to wage a suc- 
cessful "holy war" against Israel. 

In 1987 most observers doubted that either the Libyans or the 
Soviets viewed the stored Soviet equipment as an arms depot 
prepositioned for eventual use by Soviet forces in action in North 
Africa. The materiel has been purchased outright by Libya at a 
considerable sacrifice to the country's economy. In spite of large 
numbers of Soviet advisers and support personnel, the unused 
equipment reportedly has not been maintained in an adequate state 
of readiness to be employed at short notice. Anticipated use by the 
Soviet forces presupposes close cooperation and approval by Qadhafi 
of Soviet operations in North Africa, but other evidence suggested 
that he was far from willing to agree to a more active Soviet role 
in the area. 

The traditional mission of Libyan armed forces has been to pro- 
tect Libya's territorial integrity and national sovereignty. Normally, 


National Security 

the limited capability of neighboring states to threaten Libya's 
borders would not justify a primed and powerful defense arm (see 
fig. 12). Qadhafl, however, has inflamed relations with all of his 
neighbors on one or more occasions. In the late 1980s, the mili- 
tary remained ready for possible open conflict with Egypt, whose 
moderate policy toward Israel Qadhafl viewed as a provocation. 
Libya's buildup of naval and air strength helped to protect the coun- 
try's exposed Mediterranean coastline against attack and gave 
Qadhafl a tangible means for enforcing Libya's claim to the Gulf 
of Sidra and its natural resources as Libyan territorial waters. 
Moreover, submarines and fast-attack craft with missiles gave Libya 
a potential striking power that even major naval forces in the 
Mediterranean were forced to heed. 

Libya's arms buildup and demonstrated mobility provided the 
indispensable underpinning to Qadhafl' s efforts to play a leading 
role in African politics by extending his influence, particularly to 
the Sahelian nations to the south. Libyan involvement has taken 
the form of subversion, military assistance, and direct military inter- 
vention aimed at winning other countries to support Qadhafi's rad- 
ical policies or supplanting existing governments with others more 
amenable to him. Libya's efforts to dominate the Sahel presented 
a more imminent threat because of the military weakness, poverty, 
and unstable governments in the area. In addition, territorial claims 
have been advanced against Chad, Niger, and Algeria. 

Performance in Combat 

Although never tested in large-scale actions, the Libyan armed 
forces have been involved in low-level hostilities on a number of 
occasions. A sharp series of border clashes occurred with Egypt 
in 1977, and Libyan forces were flown into Uganda in 1978 in an 
unsuccessful effort to defend the regime of Idi Amin Dada against 
invading Tanzanian forces. In addition, the Libyans have conducted 
a series of campaigns in northern Chad since 1980. In brief engage- 
ments in 1981 and 1986, they proved to be outmatched against 
United States air power. 

The cause of the hostilities between Egypt and Libya was never 
clearly established, although the attacks were probably initiated by 
Egypt as punishment for Libyan interference and a warning against 
the Soviet-backed arms buildup. After border violations alleged 
by both sides, fighting escalated on July 19, 1977, with an artillery 
duel, and, two days later, a drive along the coast by Egyptian armor 
and infantry during which the Libyan army was engaged. Egypt 
claimed successful surprise air strikes against the Libyan air base 
at Al Adem (Gamal Abdul Nasser Air Base) just south of Tobruk, 


Libya: A Country Study 

destroying aircraft on the ground; surface-to-air missile batteries 
and radar stations were also knocked out. 

When the Egyptians withdrew on July 24, most foreign analysts 
agreed that the Egyptian units had prevailed, although Libyan 
forces reacted better than had been expected. The Qadhafi regime 
nevertheless hailed the encounter as a victory, citing the clash as 
justification for further purchases of modern armaments. 

In the case of Uganda, Qadhafi had befriended the despotic ruler 
Idi Amin as a fellow Muslim and potential ally of the Arab cause 
in Africa. Libya had intervened on Amin's behalf during his first 
confrontation with neighboring Tanzania in 1972 by airlifting a 
contingent of four hundred troops into the country. During the 
invasion of Uganda by Tanzanian troops and Ugandan exiles in 
1978, a new Libyan force estimated at 2,000 to 2,500 was sent, 
assisting in the defense of Entebbe and the capital of Kampala by 
covering road junctions with armored equipment. Inexperienced, 
undisciplined, and in unfamiliar forested terrain, the Libyan troops 
were quickly routed in attacks by foot soldiers. As many as 600 
Libyans were estimated to have been killed during the Ugandan 
operation, and the defeated remainder were hurriedly withdrawn. 
The troops reputedly were led to believe they were being airlifted 
into Uganda for training exercises with Ugandan units. They were 
totally unprepared for actual combat and, having little motivation 
to fight, often tried to flee. 

Invasion of Chad 

Libya's involvement in Chad dates to the early 1970s, when 
Qadhafi began supporting the antigovernment rebels of the Front 
for the National Liberation of Chad (FROLINAT). Libyan inter- 
vention has resulted in de facto control over the northern part of 
the country and three phases of open hostilities — in 1980-81, 1983, 
and late 1986 — when incursions were launched to the south of Chad. 
During the first two phases, the Libyan units acquitted themselves 
more professionally than in their previous encounters with Egypt 
and in Uganda. In mounting the 1980 incursion, they successfully 
traversed hundreds of miles of desert tracks with armored vehicles 
and carried out air operations under harsh climatic conditions. They 
also gained valuable experience in logistics and maintenance of 
modern military forces over lengthy supply lines. 

Libya's 1980 intervention in Chad was on behalf of President 
Goukouni Oueddei against the French-backed forces of Hissein 
Habre, who at the time also enjoyed Libyan support. Qadhafi's 
actions were portrayed as support for the Chadian northern groups 
of Islamic, and to some extent Arab, culture, but his objective was 


National Security 

Libya: A Country Study 

the creation of a Libyan sphere of influence in Chad. Even before 
1980, Libyan forces had moved freely in northern areas of the coun- 
try, operating from the 100-kilometer-wide Aouzou Strip (see Glos- 
sary), which Libya had occupied by 1973 (see fig. 13). 

In June 1980, an offensive by Habre's forces resulted in the cap- 
ture of Faya Largeau, the key center of northern Chad. Beginning 
in October of that year, Libyan troops airlifted to the Aouzou Strip 
operated in conjunction with Goukouni's forces to drive Habre 
back. Faya Largeau was then used as an assembly point for tanks, 
artillery, and armored vehicles that moved south against the capi- 
tal of N'Djamena. 

An attack spearheaded by Soviet T-54 and T-55 tanks, and 
reportedly coordinated by advisers from the Soviet Union and the 
German Democratic Republic, brought the fall of the capital in 
mid-December. The Libyan force, numbering between 7,000 and 
9,000 men of regular units and the paramilitary Islamic Pan- African 
Legion, 60 tanks, and other armored vehicles, had been ferried 
across 1,100 kilometers of desert from Libya's southern border, 
partly by airlift and tank transporters and partly under their own 
power. The border itself was 1 ,000 to 1 , 100 kilometers from Libya's 
main bases on the Mediterranean coast. 

Under increasingly insistent pressure from other African coun- 
tries and from political factions in Chad, the Libyans withdrew 
in November 1981 . Upon their return to Libya, Qadhafi announced 
that his troops had killed over 3,000 of the "enemy" while losing 
300 themselves; other estimates of Libyan casualties were consider- 
ably higher. 

Without military support from Libya, Goukouni's forces were 
unable to stop the advance of Habre's Armed Forces of the North 
(FAN), which overran the capital in June 1982. The second Libyan 
intervention in favor of Goukouni occurred between June and 
August 1983, with the distinction that Goukouni was now the head 
of a rebel faction against the legally constituted government of 
Habre. To make the 1983 phase of the Chadian war appear purely 
indigenous, the Libyans recruited, trained, and armed Chadian 
dissidents under Goukouni's nominal command. Supplemented by 
heavy artillery, the insurgents began well but were soundly defeated 
in July by Chadian government forces, bolstered by French and 
United States military supplies and a token force of Zairian troops. 
Qadhafi called for a Libyan intervention in force. A sustained air 
bombardment was launched against Faya Largeau after its recap- 
ture by Habre on July 30, using Su-22 fighters and Mirage F-ls 
from the Aouzou air base, along with Tu-22 bombers from Sabha. 
Within ten days, a large ground force had been assembled east and 


National Security 

west of Faya Largeau by first ferrying men, armor, and artillery 
by air to Sabha, Al Kufrah, and the Aouzou airfield, and then by 
shorter range transport planes to the area of conflict. The fresh 
Libyan forces attacked the Faya Largeau oasis on August 10, driv- 
ing the Chadian government units out. 

The subsequent intervention of 3,000 French troops ended the 
Libyan successes and led to a de facto division of the country, with 
Libya maintaining control of all the territory north of the sixteenth 
parallel. Under an agreement for mutual withdrawal from Chad, 
French troops withdrew by early November 1984, but the Libyans 
secretly dispersed and hid their units. 

In December 1986, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Chadian gov- 
ernment troops were moved into the Tibesti Massif region of 
northwestern Chad to support Goukouni's forces, most of whom 
had rebelled against the Libyans after Goukouni grew disillu- 
sioned with his Libyan backers in late 1986. Combined Goukouni 
and Habre forces then reportedly routed a 1,000-man Libyan 
garrison at Fada, claiming to have captured or destroyed a large 
number of tanks. 

In March 1987, the main Libyan air base of Ouadi Doum was 
captured by Chadian forces. Although strongly defended by mine 
fields, 5,000 troops, tanks, armored vehicles, and aircraft, the Lib- 
yan base was overcome by a smaller Chadian attacking force 
equipped with trucks mounted with machine guns and antitank 
weapons. Two days later, the Libyans evacuated their main base 
of Faya Largeau, 150 kilometers farther south, which was in danger 
of being encircled. Observers estimated that in the Chadian victo- 
ries in the first 3 months of 1987 more than 3,000 Libyan soldiers 
had been killed or captured or had deserted. Large numbers of 
tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, fixed-wing aircraft, 
and helicopters were captured or destroyed. In some cases, Libya 
sent its own aircraft to bomb abandoned Libyan equipment to deny 
its use to the Chadians. It was reported that in many cases Libyan 
soldiers had been killed while fleeing to avoid battle. At Ouadi 
Doum, panicked Libyans had suffered high casualties running 
through their own mine fields. 

These military actions left Habre in virtual control of Chad and 
in a position to threaten the expulsion of Libya from the Aouzou 
Strip. The full effect of these stunning defeats had yet to be assessed 
as of May 1987. It was clear, however, that they had affected the 
perception of Libya as a significant regional military power. They 
also cast renewed doubt on the competence and determination of 
Libyan fighting men, especially in engagements beyond the coun- 
try's borders to which they evidently felt no personal commitment. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Figure 13. Libyan Intervention in Chad, 1980-Mid-1987 

Encounters with the United States 

In 1973 Qadhafi claimed the Gulf of Sidra to be within Libyan 
territorial waters by drawing a straight line between a point near 
Benghazi and the western headland of the gulf at Misratah (see 
fig. 14). His claim was not generally accepted, although only the 
United States presented a direct challenge by declaring that its ships 
would continue to regard all areas beyond a distance of twelve nau- 
tical miles from the coast as international waters. On several occa- 
sions, Libyan fighter planes harassed United States planes from 
carriers maneuvering in the area. When the United States Sixth 
Fleet began exercises in August 1981, Libyan fighter planes were 
assembled from elsewhere in the country to fly patrols near the 
American ships. On August 19, two Su-22 fighter-bombers were 
intercepted by two F-14 Tomcat fighters from the aircraft carrier 


National Security 

Nimitz. While trying to escort the Libyans out of the exercise area, 
one of the American planes was the target of an air-to-air Atoll 
missile but was able to evade it. Both Libyan planes were then shot 
down with Sidewinder missiles launched by the Tomcats. The two 
Libyan pilots managed to eject and were rescued from the sea. The 
ease with which the American planes disposed of their attackers 
demonstrated that the earlier generation Su-22 and its Atoll mis- 
sile could not prevail against more sophisticated United States 

Tensions between the two countries mounted after the hijack- 
ing of a TWA airliner at Beirut in July 1985 and bombing attacks 
at American airline counters at Rome and Vienna in December 
of that year. Qadhafi was implicated in these actions through his 
patronage of the alleged perpetrator, the Palestinian terrorist Abu 
Nidal (see International Terrorism and Support for Insurgent 
Groups, this ch.). The Libyans also began installing batteries of 
SA-5 missiles acquired from the Soviet Union in late 1985, along 
with associated radar, to augment their air defense capabilities. 
United States naval vessels continued to challenge Qadhafi 's claim 
to the Gulf of Sidra, periodically crossing the line of Libyan ter- 
ritorial claim, which he came to refer to as the "line of death" (see 
%. 14). 

Three carrier task forces of the Sixth Fleet with 225 aircraft assem- 
bled off the Libyan coast for maneuvers in March 1986. On March 
24, six SA-5s were launched from the new missile base at Surt 
against American aircraft. None was hit, however, because the 
SA-5, with a range of 240 kilometers, could threaten high-altitude 
reconnaissance aircraft over the Gulf of Sidra but was relatively 
ineffective against high-performance jet fighters. Subsequently, the 
missile site was put out of action by carrier-based A-6 Intruders 
firing High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs), that homed 
in on the Libyans' radar guidance signals. A second strike followed 
the next day to knock out a replacement radar unit. Although Soviet 
technicians were believed to be present to oversee the installation 
and operation of the SA-5 batteries, none was reported injured 
in the exchanges. 

At the same time, a French-built Combattante-class missile attack 
craft was destroyed when it approached United States Navy ships 
protecting the aircraft carriers. The Libyan vessel was hit by two 
Harpoon missiles launched from an A- 7 Corsair aircraft. The most 
serious loss for the Libyans was one of the eight Soviet-supplied 
Nanuchka-class missile corvettes in an attack by two A-6s shortly 
after midnight on March 26. A total of five attacks was carried 
out on Libyan ships. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Figure 14. Principal Military Installations, 1987 

Ten days later, on April 5, 1986, a bomb exploded in a disco- 
theque in Berlin frequented by United States service personnel. 
Of the 200 injured, 63 were American soldiers; one soldier and 
one civilian were killed. Messages intercepted by the United States, 
including one from the Libyan mission in East Berlin, furnished 
what the United States government described as evidence of Libyan 
involvement in the bombing, which was probably carried out by 
the Abu Nidal organization. 

On April 15, the United States retaliated by attacking military 
installations in Benghazi and Tripoli. Eighteen FB-111 bombers, 
supported by four EF-1 1 1 electronic countermeasures aircraft, left 
England, refueling several times en route, and struck the Tripoli 
airport, a frogman training center at the naval academy, and the 
nearby Al Aziziyah barracks, where Qadhafi often resided. The 


National Security 

aircraft carriers Coral Sea and America launched twenty-four A-6 
and F/A-18 Hornet strike aircraft against radar and antiaircraft 
sites at Benghazi before hitting the Benina military airfield and the 
Jamahiriya barracks. A number of casualties also occurred in 
residential areas of Benghazi and several Western embassies were 

Several transport aircraft and some Soviet-built MiG-23 fight- 
ers and helicopters were destroyed on the ground at the two air- 
fields. The only loss among the American attackers was one FB-1 1 1 
that failed to return to its base in England. Although retaliation 
for the Berlin bombing had been anticipated, Libyan air defenses 
seemed almost wholly unprepared for the attack. In fact, it was 
reported that antiaircraft fire had not begun until after the Ameri- 
can planes had passed over their targets at Tripoli. It was reported 
that some Libyan soldiers abandoned their posts in fright and con- 
fusion and officers were slow to give orders. Also, Libyan fighters 
failed to get airborne to challenge the attacking bombers. 

The Armed Forces 

The military has been among the most representative institu- 
tions in the country, drawing its membership from all strata of soci- 
ety. The integration of the different forces, organized before 1969 
under separate commands, and the disarming of the Cyrenaican 
tribes were generally regarded as significant first steps toward estab- 
lishing national unity. According to some authorities, these steps 
will eventually break down tribal, regional, and parochial tendencies. 

Until the early 1980s, service pay, special commissaries, and 
related benefits placed the average soldier in a privileged position 
relative to the population as a whole. Military leaders neverthe- 
less sought to avoid the public display of material ostentation with 
which many officers under the earlier monarchy had been asso- 
ciated. Most of the senior officers were noted for their austere, 
almost puritanical, personal habits. For more than a decade after 
the coup, the rank of colonel, which Qadhafi assumed after taking 
power, acted as a ceiling on grade level. Although the rank of gen- 
eral was subsequently adopted by some service chiefs, it was an- 
nounced in mid- 1986 that the rank of colonel would again be the 
highest in the armed forces. Observers noted, for example, that 
Kharrubi was being referred to as colonel instead of general. The 
ranks of many other officers may also have been reduced, in some 
cases as a result of dissatisfaction with their responses to the Ameri- 
can raid a few months earlier. 

In his public conduct, Qadhafi was the archetype of the ascetic 
behavior that characterized senior Libyan officers in the early days 


Libya: A Country Study 

of the Revolution. He cultivated an image of incorruptibility and 
of simple personal habits, promoting the idea that military service 
was a patriotic obligation for which little material reward should 
be expected. 

In general, the morale of the military was high as a result of 
Qadhafi's extravagant modernization program, which was accom- 
panied by new weapons systems, opportunities for training abroad 
for younger officers, and major construction projects. Moreover, 
experience gained in operations in Chad enabled the military to 
address some of the deficiencies revealed in the clashes with Egypt 
and in Uganda. 

In spite of the historical importance of the military in the over- 
throw of the monarchy and its participation in the government dur- 
ing the first decade under Qadhafi, underlying tensions between 
civil and military authorities became visible during the early 1980s. 
Although there was little discernible dissension among the most 
senior military figures, whose fortunes were closely linked with 
Qadhafi, there reportedly was disgruntlement among more junior 
officers, who rejected the adventurist policies that had needlessly 
provoked the hostility of Libya's Arab neighbors. The economic 
austerity arising from the drop in oil revenues and Qadhafi's bizarre 
economic theories contributed to the disaffection. As a result of 
budget stringencies, military pay was often two or three months 
in arrears, commissary stocks were little better than the meager 
supplies in government-run shops, and military construction proj- 
ects were scaled back sharply. 

On numerous occasions, Qadhafi declared that ultimately the 
traditional military establishment should "wither away," to be 
replaced by an armed citizenry. This eventuality conformed with 
the Third Universal Theory in that the populace would then be 
directly involved in assuring their own security (see Political Ideol- 
ogy, ch. 4). Accordingly, all members of society must be prepared 
to function as soldiers. Although Qadhafi seemed to treat the dis- 
appearance of the professional military more as a theoretical goal 
than an imminent reality, his remarks added to the deteriorating 
morale of the officer corps. 

Qadhafi and knowledgeable observers recognized that only the 
army represented a separate source of power that could threaten 
to overturn the existing regime. A government journal warned in 
1982 that "armies believe the power to bear arms is by proxy for 
the masses and they thus create dictatorial classes which monopo- 
lize the weapons and crush the masses with them." This was fol- 
lowed by an extraordinary campaign unleashed against the military 
in 1983. The ideological weekly of the revolutionary committees, 


National Security 

Az Zahfal Akhdar, branded officers as reactionaries, guilty of cor- 
ruption, smuggling, and smoking hashish. These fascists "must 
be immediately removed," said the editor, because they "mock 
the people and get drunk with the bourgeoisie." Although these 
views could not have been published without official sanction, 
Qadhafi refrained from associating himself fully with them. He said 
the army was not corrupt and that the officers with a bourgeois 
orientation were only remnants from the traditional royal army. 

Although Az Zahf al Akhdar moderated its charges following 
Qadhafi 's intervention, its campaign, focusing on the luxurious 
cars, dwellings, and working quarters of the officers, was resumed 
in 1984. Assuming that Qadhafi could muzzle these denunciations 
of the military if he chose, he may have failed to do so because 
of suspicions of military disloyalty and a desire to deflate the pres- 
tige of the military establishment as a potential competing politi- 
cal force. Thus, in spite of his dependence on the armed forces to 
execute his wide-ranging ambitions, Qadhafi may feel constrained 
to seek some balance by giving freer rein to the revolutionary com- 
mittees and by strengthening the People's Militia. 

The revolutionary committees introduced into work places and 
communities were not at first extended to the military (see The 
Revolutionary Committees, ch. 4). When they were later imposed, 
there were complaints that they were controlled by officers with 
insufficient revolutionary zeal. After the early 1980s, however, a 
paramilitary wing of the revolutionary committees, the revolution- 
ary guards, became entrenched within the armed forces. They 
served as a parallel channel of control, a means of ideological indoc- 
trination in the barracks, and an apparatus for monitoring suspi- 
cious behavior. The revolutionary guards reportedly held the keys 
to ammunition stockpiles at the main military bases, doling am- 
munition out in small quantities as needed by the regular forces. 

The influence of the revolutionary guards increased after a coup 
attempt in May 1985 (see State of Internal Security, this ch.). The 
guards, assisted by the revolutionary committees, set up roadblocks 
and arrested thousands of individuals suspected of being implicated. 
The revolutionary guards were believed to be no more that 1,000 
to 2,000 strong, but they were outfitted with light tanks, armored 
cars and personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers, and SA-8 
antiaircraft missiles. Most had been recruited from Qadhafi 's own 
tribal group in the Surt region. 

The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 
(ACDA) estimated that Libya spent US$1.8 billion on arms pur- 
chases in 1984. Accordingly, if the ACDA figure of US$5.2 bil- 
lion in total defense expenditures in 1984 is accepted, true defense 


Libya: A Country Study 

costs exclusive of new weapons acquisitions would still be about 
US$3.4 billion or several times the officially acknowledged rate of 
spending. This would include such items as pay and benefits, mili- 
tary construction, fuel, maintenance, and the cost of the Chadian 

Organization of the Armed Forces 

The Army 

In 1987 the army — by far the largest and most developed branch 
of the military forces — was still organized tactically in battalion for- 
mations. These included twenty tank battalions, thirty mechanized 
infantry battalions, ten artillery battalions, and two special forces 
groups comprising ten paratroop battalions. Air defense was orga- 
nized into two antiaircraft battalions and six surface-to-air missile 
battalions. Two surface-to-surface missile brigades were equipped 
with free rocket over ground (FROG) and Scud missiles acquired 
from the Soviet Union. 

Although the pattern of equipment purchases and the creation 
of divisional headquarters units suggested that a transition to a more 
integrated structure of mobile armored and mechanized infantry 
was contemplated, by early 1987 the shift to such an organizational 
form had not yet occurred. During specific deployments, as in 
Chad, units were brought together on an ad hoc basis. If the tank 
and mechanized battalions were to be consolidated into a more uni- 
fied command structure, this would most likely be designed for plan- 
ning territorial defense rather than for desert combat operations; 
the system existing in 1987 of independent battalions afforded more 
flexibility for desert combat. 

In early 1987, the Libyan army was well outfitted with modern 
armaments, including rocket systems, armored vehicles for its infan- 
try and artillery, engineering equipment, up-to-date Soviet infan- 
try weapons, sophisticated fire-control systems, flame throwers and 
chemical munitions, and antitank guided missiles. Libya's more 
than 3,000 tanks gave it the tenth largest tank force in the world. 
Its range of tracked and wheeled armor, tank transporters, and 
air transport ensured it the necessary mobility to bring its forces 
to bear rapidly against any threat to its territorial integrity and en- 
abled it to intervene in ventures far beyond its borders (see table 
10, Appendix). 

The army was nevertheless confronted by grave deficiencies. The 
high technological level of its equipment demanded a correspond- 
ing level of technical competence in operation and maintenance 
that the army lacked. Maintenance and repair problems were 


National Security 

exacerbated by the diversity of arms sources — British, American, 
French, Soviet, Italian, and Brazilian. The numerous foreign 
advisers and technicians were insufficient to overcome low stan- 
dards of support and logistics. To judge from the ability the Libyans 
demonstrated in Chad to sustain modern combat operations over 
extended supply lines, some progress was being made in correct- 
ing these problems. 

The pattern of troop concentrations could not be determined pre- 
cisely from published sources. Some troops were at the operational 
sites, including Tripoli, Misratah, Az Zawiyah, Surt, Benghazi, 
Darnah, and Tobruk, that were established at strategic points along 
the Mediterranean coast during World War II (see fig. 14). Others 
were at inland sites at desert oases, such as Sabha, and farther south, 
at Al Kufrah, which became the main base for operations in Chad. 
Areas adjacent to the Egyptian border, particularly along lines of 
movement, were also well defended. Many army units were scat- 
tered throughout populated areas, owing in part to their responsi- 
bility for training People's Militia units. 

Few details were available on army training. The military acad- 
emy at Benghazi, established before independence with British assis- 
tance, offered its cadets courses in higher education and military 
subjects to prepare them for active duty as junior officers. Qadhafi 
and other members of the RCC attended the institution, but it was 
closed after the coup. Later a military academy opened at Tripoli. 

In 1985 a military engineering college (at an unspecified loca- 
tion) to provide training in all technical military specialities was 
proposed. The college was to have a four-year program leading 
to a bachelor's degree. At about the same time, the establishment 
of a reserves college with a one-year program leading to the rank 
of second lieutenant in the reserves was announced. Admission 
would be contingent on the attainment of a university degree or 
its equivalent and a demonstration of ' ' adherence to the great Fatah 
revolution." Because Libya is not known to have an active reserve 
program, it remained unclear how the graduates of this institu- 
tion would be used. 

The Navy 

The navy has always been the stepchild of the Libyan armed 
forces, although its Soviet- supplied submarines and fast-attack craft 
with missiles have endowed it with the potential for inflicting 
damage on other naval powers in the Mediterranean. The enor- 
mous firepower available to small vessels armed with missiles and 
sophisticated electronic guidance systems has enabled Qadhafi to 
assemble a modern flotilla at relatively low cost and with few 


Libya: A Country Study 

personnel. The navy consisted of no more than 200 officers and 
men when the first warship was delivered to the Idris regime in 
1966. Under Qadhafi, naval personnel had increased to 6,500 by 
1 986 and was expected to rise still further to meet the staffing needs 
of additional ships on order. 

Traditionally, the navy's primary mission has been to defend 
the coast and to assist the other services in maintaining internal 
security and public order. After the previously separate customs 
and harbor police were joined with the navy in a single command 
under the Ministry of Defense in 1970, the mission was extended 
to include responsibilities for curbing smuggling and for enforc- 
ing customs laws. The rapid naval buildup that occurred during 
the 1970s was intended to enforce Qadhafi' s claim of sovereignty 
over the Gulf of Sidra with its sponging and fishing grounds as 
well as potential unexploited mineral wealth. The navy could also 
deter landings or raids aimed against the country's oil fields and 
vulnerable oil transport network. The purpose of acquiring amphib- 
ious ships for landing infantry and tanks was less obvious. One 
explanation might be to present a threat to Egyptian forces near 
the border with Libya. The Egyptians' sole land supply route is 
the coastal road from Alexandria. 

The navy has always been dependent on foreign sources for 
equipment, spare parts, and training. In 1972 a British naval advi- 
sory mission that had assisted in the development of the Libyan 
navy since its founding was terminated. Training was shifted to 
Greece and to Egypt and later to the Soviet Union. The initial ship 
orders, placed with British yards, were for patrol boats and cor- 
vettes. The largest surface ship in the Libyan navy, a frigate of 
about 1,500 tons with a crew of 130, was ordered just before the 
1969 coup and delivered in 1973. Later, high-speed patrol boats 
and corvettes equipped with surface-to-surface missiles were pur- 
chased from France, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Between 1976 
and 1983, six Soviet Foxtrot-class submarines were delivered. Each 
required a crew of seventy-five; in addition, twelve Soviet advisers 
were reportedly assigned to each vessel. (For an inventory of ships 
of the Libyan fleet, see table 11, Appendix). 

Little information was available on the navy's organizational 
structure, but Tripoli was known to be the site of the naval com- 
mand headquarters and of the principal naval base. Other bases 
were located in the ports of Benghazi, Darnah, Tobruk, and Marsa 
al Burayqah. A repair base was located at Al Khums east of Tripoli, 
and a submarine base was under construction at Ras al Hilal. 

As of early 1987, the Libyan navy had faced no hostile actions 
except for the encounter with the American fleet in March 1986 


Sailors of Libya's growing navy 

in which one missile boat and a corvette were destroyed and others 
possibly damaged. Earlier, it was reported that the small Libyan 
vessels were experiencing difficulty in obeying Qadhafi's order to 
remain at sea to avoid the risk of being bombed in port by Ameri- 
can planes. The fleet reported breakdowns of engines and electronic 
failures as well as shortages of food and fuel. 

By early 1987 it was considered probable that the Libyan navy 
was overextended, having carried out a rapid buildup without suffi- 
cient trained personnel. More than one- third of the entire naval 
complement of 6,500 would be required to supply a single crew 
for each of the ships in commission in 1986. In addition, person- 
nel would have to be found to staff a number of other vessels on 
order. Aggravating the problem of reaching a satisfactory level of 
operation, training, and maintenance was the need to become 
familiar with a variety of modern weapons systems from numer- 
ous supplier countries, among them Britain, France, Italy, Yugo- 
slavia, and the Soviet Union. 

The Air Force 

Last of the military services to be established, the air force has 
been obliged to struggle to develop trained air and ground crews 
to match the rapid acquisition of modern planes and weaponry (see 
table 12, Appendix). As a result, in spite of the significant inven- 
tory of combat aircraft, amounting to more than 500 as of early 
1987, Libyan air units have been committed only reluctantly and 


Libya: A Country Study 

have not acquitted themselves impressively in air-to-air engage- 
ments. However, the considerable air transport fleet has appar- 
ently been employed capably in Chad and elsewhere. Although the 
air force has been extensively used in support of Libyan ground 
units in the fighting in Chad, it does not seem to have played a 
decisive role. 

At the time of the overthrow of the monarchy in 1969, the roster 
of personnel was only about 400 officers and enlisted men. A recruit- 
ment drive undertaken in 1970 eventually brought a tenfold increase 
in the force by 1978. As of 1986, its strength was estimated at 10,000. 

The country's burgeoning inventory of air force weapons 
accounted for a considerable share of Libya's procurement efforts. 
The hundreds of aircraft acquired since 1969 included American 
helicopters and transports (although deliveries of United States 
planes were blocked in 1975), later-model French close-air-support 
fighters, and up-to-date fighter interceptors from the Soviet Union. 
Of the combat aircraft, the United States Department of State esti- 
mated in 1983 that 50 percent remained in storage, including most 
of the MiG fighters and Tu-22 bombers. According to another 
report, the Mirage aircraft were so neglected that only half were 
in flying condition, the others being cannibalized for spare parts. 
Pilots from Syria and other countries reportedly helped fly the 
Libyan planes, and instructors, technical personnel, and main- 
tenance teams included Soviets, Pakistanis, and Yugoslavs. 

With Soviet assistance, the air force was organized into one medium 
bomber squadron, three fighter interceptor squadrons, five forward 
ground attack squadrons, one counterinsurgency squadron, nine 
helicopter squadrons, and three air defense brigades deploying 
SA-2, SA-3, and Crotale missiles. (The three SA-5 launch sites 
were operated by army units.) 

The air force's primary installation was the huge Uqba ibn Nafi 
Air Base (the former Wheelus Air Base) near Tripoli. It had excel- 
lent operational features and contained the service's headquarters 
and a large share of its major training facilities. Both MiG fight- 
ers and Tu-22 bombers were located there. A large air base at a 
site near Benghazi shared with the civil airport also had some MiG 
squadrons. Most of the Mirages were located at Gamal Abdul 
Nasser Air Base. Two airfields not far from the Egyptian border, 
at Al Kufrah Oasis and at Jabal al Uwaynat in the far south, were 
among the Libyan installations attacked by Egyptian air crews dur- 
ing the 1977 border clash. The Soviets have constructed another 
base in central Libya at the new army headquarters site of Al Jufrah 
near Hun with a runway of over 4,000 meters. 


National Security 

An air force academy established at Az Zawiyah near Misratah 
in 1975 was reportedly staffed mainly by Yugoslavs. Institutions 
referred to as "secondary colleges," possibly technical training 
schools, were opened at Sabha and at Uqba ibn Nafi Air Base in 
1978. Basic pilot training was conducted on Italian-manufactured 
SF-260 planes before the students moved on to the Soko G-2AE 
Galebs (Yugoslav) and the Aero L-39 Albatros (Czechoslovak) at 
Az Zawiyah. Additional training took place outside Libya. Sev- 
eral hundred Libyan students were reportedly undergoing instruc- 
tion with the Dassault firm in France in 1 983 as part of the Mirage 
contract. This was at a time of confrontation between French and 
Libyan forces in Chad. 

Information on training programs conducted by the Soviet Union 
was scanty but in light of the sophisticated weapons in the air force 
inventory, it could be assumed that much time and effort were 
invested in producing even a limited number of combat-ready 
crews, backed up by ground support personnel. Soviet specialists 
reportedly accompanied the Libyans during the 1980 incursion into 
Chad and possibly were directly involved in missions of the Tu-22 

The performance of the Libyan air force in emergency condi- 
tions cannot have been reassuring to Qadhafi. Libyan pilots have 
reportedly experienced difficulty in finding and identifying aircraft 
they have been ordered to intercept. They have been reluctant to 
fly at night for fear of being unable to locate their bases. To some 
extent, these problems may reflect outdated navigation and radar 
aids in their combat aircraft, which are mostly older, stripped-down 
versions of Soviet designs. The two Su-22 fighters were han- 
dicapped in their engagement with carrier-based American F-14s 
in 1981 because the equipment, instruments, and air-to-air mis- 
siles were outmoded in comparison with those of their adversaries. 
In spite of Qadhafi 's express warning that his air force would repel 
the United States fleet in the Gulf of Sidra in 1986, his planes did 
not seriously challenge the American naval units. In addition, 
Libyan planes did not take off to meet the American fighter-bombers 
that attacked targets at Benghazi and Tripoli in April 1986; con- 
sequently many planes were destroyed or damaged on the ground. 
In Chad it was reported that many Libyan bombing raids were 
carried out at excessively high altitudes when met with antiaircraft 

Conscription and the People's Militia 

The concept of universal military service is embodied in Statute 
3 for 1984, approved by the GPC in March 1984. This law declared 


Libya: A Country Study 

that all Libyans coming of age, whether male or female, were to 
receive regular military training, as long as they were physically 
able. Military studies were to be among the basic subjects of the 
educational curriculum at all stages above the elementary level. 
Military studies and training in regular military establishments of 
"specialized cadres in warfare" were to be restricted for the present 
to males. 

The statute provided for Libya to be divided into defense regions, 
the responsibility for defending each region being that of its inhab- 
itants. Defense regions were to regard themselves as strategic 
reserves for each other. The new law did not supersede the provi- 
sions of the Compulsory Military Service Statute of 1978, which 
made all males between the ages of seventeen and thirty-five sub- 
ject to a draft commitment of three years of active service in the 
army or four years in the navy or air force. Students could defer 
service until completion of their studies. The actual application of 
conscription laws in 1987 was not entirely clear. In one case, a young 
man called up for two years' service was required to serve six years. 
In 1986, of 936,000 men in the 15 to 59 age category, about 550,000 
were fit for military service. About 39,000 Libyans reach military 
age each year; many, however, lack the basic education needed 
to absorb training in the use and servicing of modern weaponry. 

The implementing regulations for the 1 984 statute stipulated that 
all secondary schools and equivalent institutions were to be assigned 
to various military units (see Education, ch. 2). Each student was 
to devote two days each month to training with the nearest mili- 
tary element having a specialization approximating that of the unit 
to which the student had been assigned. One month each year was 
to be spent with the student's original military unit. 

Members of all government and business enterprises as well as 
artisans, professionals, and farmers, were also to train for two days 
a month and one month a year. At some factories, the military 
commitment was more onerous. When the work day finished at 
2:00 P.M., employees were obliged to spend three to four hours 
with their military units five days each week. Such periods of inten- 
sive training continued for six months or more at intervals of every 
few years. 

To a considerable extent, the new law merely reinforced a pro- 
gram in existence for some years to mobilize the entire population 
of physically fit students and working people into local militia units 
centered on schools, communities, and work places. The number 
of individuals organized into paramilitary units has been estimated 
at 45,000 but may have increased with the application of the new 
law. In 1987 the People's Militia was headed by Major Khuwayldi 


Military and People's Militia units on parade in Tripoli 


Libya: A Country Study 

al Hamidi, one of the original members of the RCC. The militia 
units reportedly were generously equipped with arms, transport, 
and uniforms. In November 1985, it was announced that the first 
contingent of "armed people" trained as paratroopers had made 
a demonstration drop. 

In early 1986, Western reporters were shown military training 
at a high school in Tripoli at which a minimum of two out of thirty- 
six class hours a week were devoted to military studies. In addi- 
tion, one of three summer months was spent at a military camp. 
Graduates either entered the army directly or went on to college. 
Those entering college had to continue reserve training at their 
former high schools. The weekly lessons included hand-grenade 
throwing, signals and codes, and machine-gun maintenance. High 
schools concentrated on designated specialties, which in the case 
of the institution visited was the operation of the Soviet truck- 
mounted Katyusha rocket launcher. 

The mission of the People's Militia was territorial defense, and 
it was to function under the leadership of local military commanders. 
Qadhafi contended that it was the People's Militia that met the 
Egyptian incursions during the border clash of 1977, although the 
Egyptians insisted that their successful raids had been contested 
by regular army units. The militia forces are not known to have 
faced any other test that would permit an appraisal of their perfor- 
mance in home defense or as auxiliaries to the regular army. There 
was some evidence that local commanders had not responded ener- 
getically to their responsibility for training and supervising militia 

Women in the Armed Forces 

Qadhafi has persistently sought to usher in a policy of direct par- 
ticipation by women in national defense. His efforts, which have 
been resisted by conservative elements of Libyan society and appar- 
ently by most young women as well, derived from his argument 
that women of the Arab world live in a subjugated state and must 
be liberated from oppression and feudalism. Qadhafi viewed prac- 
tices governing a woman's role in society and her legal rights as 
disrespectful, reactionary, and contrary to the Quran (see The 
Traditional View of Men and Women, ch. 2). 

Speaking at a rally in Tripoli in 1978, Qadhafi said that the goal 
of a totally armed people would be fully realized "when all 
Libyans — men and women — have been trained in an organized, 
modern fashion. " Addressing in the same speech the political and 
religious problems that a full-fledged military role for women 
presented in Islamic Libya, Qadhafi declared that this "is not 
against religion, not against marriage, not against ethics." 


Women have played a significant role 
in Qadhafi' s military build-up 

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that women were to be con- 
scripted along with men, but this plan apparently was not fully 
implemented. A women's army college opened in Tripoli in 1979, 
training volunteers aged thirteen to seventeen in basic military sub- 
jects and the use of various weapons. A total of 7,000 students had 
passed through the academy by 1983. Some female pilots and naval 
recruits had reportedly also been enlisted. Nevertheless, the notion 
of women as soldiers remained unpopular. Some observers believed 
that many of the students had been coerced into entering the acad- 
emy. The institution was closed in November 1983, reportedly after 
students ripped down fences to escape and return to their homes. 

Nonetheless, the new legislation introduced in February 1984 
covering universal military service specifically included women. 
When the GPC took the almost unprecedented step of rejecting 
the proposal, Qadhafi saw this as evidence of lingering reaction- 
ary attitudes in a society that had not wholeheartedly accepted the 
Revolution. "Spontaneous demonstrations" of young women 
demanding the right to engage in military service were organized. 
In a speech on March 12, 1984, Qadhafi announced that popular 
demand made it necessary to introduce compulsory military ser- 
vice for all in spite of the GPC's action. After the Libyan retreat 
from Chad in March 1987, there were indications that women had 
served there in administrative positions. 


Libya: A Country Study 

The women's military academy was not reopened, however, and 
no immediate steps were taken to institute full-time military ser- 
vice for women. Training was apparently to remain an adjunct 
to high school and university studies. Even so, there was evidence 
that the program was not being resolutely enforced. As late as April 
1986, the Libyan press mentioned complaints over the delays and 
haphazard nature of the training programs at the Zlitan Women 
Teachers' Institute, apparently owing to the indifference of local 
military authorities. 

Other Paramilitary Forces 

In about 1980, Qadhafi introduced the Islamic Pan- African 
Legion, a body of mercenaries recruited primarily among dissi- 
dents from Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, and Chad. West African 
states with Muslim populations have also been the source of some 
personnel. Believed to consist of about 7,000 individuals, the force 
has received training from experienced Palestinian and Syrian 
instructors. Some of those recruited to the legion were said to have 
been forcibly impressed from among nationals of neighboring coun- 
tries who migrated to Libya in search of work. 

According to The Military Balance, published by the International 
Institute for Strategic Studies, the force was organized into one 
armored, one infantry, and one paratroop/commando brigade. It 
has been supplied with T-54 and T-55 tanks, armored personnel 
carriers, and EE-9 armored cars. The Islamic Pan- African Legion 
was reported to have been committed during the fighting in Chad 
in 1980 and was praised by Qadhafi for its success there. However, 
it was believed that many of the troops who fled the Chadian attacks 
of March 1987 were members of the Islamic Pan-African Legion. 

In an effort to realize Qadhafi 's vision of a united Arab military 
force, plans for the creation of an Arab legion have been announced 
from time to time. The goal, according to the Libyan press, would 
be to assemble an army of 1 million men and women fighters to 
prepare for the great Arab battle — "the battle of liberating Pales- 
tine, of toppling the reactionary regimes, of annihilating the borders, 
gates, and barriers between the countries of the Arab homeland, 
and of creating the single Arab Jamahiriya from the ocean to the 
gulf." In March 1985, it was announced that the National Com- 
mand of the Revolutionary Forces Command in the Arab Nation 
had been formed with Qadhafi at its head. A number of smaller 
radical Arab groups from Lebanon, Tunisia, Sudan, Iraq, the Per- 
sian Gulf states, and Jordan were represented at the inaugural meet- 
ing. Syrian Baath Party and radical Palestinian factions were also 
present. Each of these movements was expected to earmark 10 


National Security 

percent of its forces for service under the new command. As of April 
1987, there was no information confirming the existence of such 
a militia. 

Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia of the Armed Forces 

When the army and navy were formed, the uniforms adopted 
by each service reflected British military and naval tradition. Modifi- 
cations have occurred over the intervening years, however, and 
in early 1987 Libyan uniforms were similar to those worn by mili- 
tary personnel of a number of Middle Eastern Arab countries. 

The standard field uniform for Libyan paratroopers (Army com- 
mandos) is a two-piece camouflage uniform made of water-repellent 
cotton. The shirt is similar in design to the United States Army 
fatigue shirt. The shirt and trousers are camouflaged in blue-green, 
light green, and dark brown. The standard headgear for paratroopers 
is a sky-blue beret. The uniforms of the air force, however, con- 
tinued to resemble in both style and color the uniforms of the United 
States Air Force, which served as a model when the Libyan air 
arm was established. 

Originally the rank structure of all three services was similar to 
that of the British armed forces, but some modifications were intro- 
duced in light of the small size of the Libyan military establish- 
ment. In early 1979, the system prescribed by law still included 
nine officer grades and five enlisted ranks; there were no warrant 
officer equivalents (see figs. 15 and 16). Although three general 
officer grades continued to be authorized, they have been 
used rarely since 1 969 . Promoted to the grade of colonel (aqid) after 
assuming power, Qadhafi has maintained a ceiling on the grade 
level of his officers corps in keeping with his desire to 
avoid the ostentatious public image the generals of the monarchy 
had conveyed. In January 1976, the Arab Socialist Union's National 
Congress attempted to promote Qadhafi to major general. The 
Libyan leader stated that he would accept the honor as an expres- 
sion of gratitude from his compatriots but would retain the title 
of colonel because it had become an accepted and traditional part 
of his name. 

Defense Costs 

The pattern of defense spending has been difficult to appraise 
with any exactitude since the mid-1970s, when government restric- 
tions on the publication of military information were imposed. 
Detailed budgets, once available, have not been disclosed since the 
mid-1970s. Total amounts allocated to defense in the national bud- 
get were available, but apportionments to individual service 


Libya: A Country Study 














































































































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Libya: A Country Study 

components or specific programs were impossible to ascertain. 
Moreover, the figures published for the defense budget clearly fell 
far short of actual expenditures. In all likelihood, many military 
outlays were hidden under other budget items or obscured by 
manipulation of prices or exchange rates. The value of imported 
military equipment alone has generally been far in excess of the 
allocations to defense as recorded in the budget. The massive pur- 
chases from the Soviet Union, estimated at over US$1 billion annu- 
ally since the mid-1970s, do not appear in the budget either as 
payments or amortization of military credit. 

Increased spending for military improvements and other defense 
needs was made possible by the vast revenues from petroleum — 
particularly after the government nationalized the industry. Even 
during the monarchy, a doubling of military expenditures between 
1964 and 1968 demonstrated that this new source of revenue 
permitted an upgrading of the military that was previously unat- 
tainable. Nonetheless, defense expenditures under the monarchy 
continued to be relatively modest. As one specialist wrote just before 
the 1969 coup, "thus far Libya has avoided succumbing to the lure 
of the arms race or procurement of nonessential prestige military 
forces. ' ' 

Within a few years after the assumption of power by the Qadhafi 
regime, defense spending accelerated dramatically. It continued 
to rise nearly every year, although at a somewhat reduced rate after 
1978. Arms imports ordinarily formed more than half of total 
defense expenditures. However, some slackening in the value of 
imported equipment has occurred since 1982. This is attributed 
in part to the saturation of the Libyan defense forces and in part 
to financial strains on the government arising from the sharp decline 
in oil prices. 

The limited official data published by Libya offer a completely 
different picture from the estimates compiled by non-Libyan 
sources. In the administrative budget for 1984, the amount shown 
for the armed forces is LD340 million (for value of the Libyan dinar, 
see Glossary), which constituted 23.6 percent of the budget. This 
represented a substantial increase over the LD300 million shown 
for 1983, composing 19.7 percent of the administrative budget. 
Defense expenditures were omitted from the budget published for 
1985, and no explanation was supplied of the component items in 
the ostensible disbursements for defense in 1983 or 1984. 

According to estimates compiled by ACDA, Libyan military 
expenditures rose eightfold between 1973 and 1979, when a peak 
of US$3 billion annually was reached. Spending then remained 
fairly level until a new upswing in spending began by 1983. By 


National Security 

1984, annual outlays on defense were estimated at US$5.1 billion. 
The 1979 figure represented 12.4 percent of gross national product 
(GNP), whereas the 1984 figure represented 17.8 percent of GNP 
and an exceptionally high 40 percent of total government expen- 
ditures. On the basis of the ACDA estimate, military spending 
would have amounted to US$1,360 per capita in 1984. This com- 
pared to a figure of US$34 per capita for Africa as a whole and 
was about twice the level of average per capita spending on defense 
of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Only 
Israel, Saudi Arabia, and several smaller states of the Arabian 
Peninsula had military outlays on a scale comparable to those of 

Foreign Military Assistance 

Because of a relatively low level of technical and industrial 
development — apart from the petroleum sector — since indepen- 
dence Libya has been forced to rely on foreign sources of assistance 
in its efforts to establish a credible military posture. During the 
eighteen years of the monarchy, the Idris government turned to 
the West for help in forging a national military system. In the 
process, the government entered into a number of treaties and other 
agreements of a military nature, particularly with Britain and the 
United States. One of the most important of these agreements was 
the Treaty of Friendship concluded in 1953 by Britain and Libya 
that included reciprocal pledges of assistance in case of an armed 
conflict. The treaty, which was to have remained in force for twenty 
years, granted the British continued rights to the use of military 
bases along the Mediterranean coast in exchange for extensive mili- 
tary supplies and training assistance. 

Similar arrangements concluded with the United States a year 
later granted the use of Wheelus Air Base in exchange for military 
assistance grants and the purchase of excess stocks of American 
weapons. United States military aid was devoted mainly to the orga- 
nization and development of the Libyan air force. Many of the 
personnel recruited to that new branch received American train- 
ing, and most of the aircraft acquired during its early years were 
provided by the United States. 

Since the mid-1970s, arms deliveries to Libya have originated 
predominantly in the Soviet Union and other communist coun- 
tries. According to ACDA, these sources accounted for 60 percent 
of total military imports between 1981 and 1985. Such sources 
included the Soviet Union (US$4.6 billion), Czechoslovakia (US$875 
million), People's Republic of China (US$320 million), and Poland 
(US$300 million). Major Western sources were France (mostly 


Libya: A Country Study 

naval craft previously ordered) at US$725 million and Italy, which 
provided supplies amounting to US$850 million. The Federal 
Republic of Germany (West Germany) was the only other signifi- 
cant West European source, furnishing US$180 million worth of 
equipment. Such other suppliers as Brazil and Yugoslavia accounted 
for a further US$2.6 billion. 

The Quest for New Sources of Arms 

After the young officers led by Qadhafi deposed the Idris regime, 
it was almost inevitable that their government would look for new 
sources of military equipment. One of the many causes of the coup 
was the monarchy's unwillingness to involve Libya militarily in 
the Arab-Israeli conflict. To have continued to rely solely on Brit- 
ain and the United States for arms would have invited domestic 
and Arab criticism inasmuch as both countries were regarded as 
hostile to the interests of the Arab world because of their support 
for Israel. The Libyans therefore cancelled the treaty with Britain 
and, in March 1970, the British evacuated their bases near Tobruk 
and Benghazi. United States operational and maintenance support 
of the Libyan air force ended the following June when American 
personnel evacuated Wheelus Air Base. Overall American mili- 
tary assistance between 1958 and 1970 had amounted to US$17.4 
million in grant aid and US$43.4 million in sales. 

In 1970 the Libyan government announced that it had contracted 
for the purchase of French weapons systems, notably Mirage 
fighters, valued at US$400 million. Using facilities that were for- 
merly part of Wheelus Air Base, French instructors engaged in the 
training of Libyan pilots and ground crews to operate and main- 
tain the Mirages. The choice of France as an alternative arms sup- 
plier was a logical one for Libya. Not only was France increasingly 
dependent upon Libyan oil supplies, but its policy toward the Arab- 
Israeli dispute was acceptable to Qadhafi. 

Failing in its efforts to acquire medium tanks from either France 
or Britain, Qadhafi turned to the Soviet Union. Moscow had 
quickly recognized the new Libyan regime and responded with 
equal speed to the request for weapons. In July 1970, the first Soviet 
military vehicles, including 30 medium tanks and 100 armored per- 
sonnel carriers, arrived in Libya. 

Apart from France, however, during the early 1970s neighbor- 
ing Egypt had the greatest influence on Qadhafi 's drive to upgrade 
his defense forces. Egypt had supported the coup by positioning 
Egyptian units at strategic points throughout Libya to help pre- 
vent any attempt by royalist forces to stage a countercoup. By 1972 
an estimated 2,000 Egyptian soldiers were serving in the country 


National Security 

as instructors. Training was also provided for both officers and 
enlisted personnel at installations in Egypt. After the military acad- 
emy at Benghazi closed, a number of Libyans were trained at the 
Egyptian military academy. 

The October 1973 War, which drew sharp criticism from Qadhafi 
over the Egyptian military effort and the willingness of President 
Anwar Sadat to accept a disengagement agreement with Israel, 
produced a rift between the two North African neighbors. Egypt 
withdrew from Libya all Egyptian pilots and two vessels it had lent 
the Libyan navy. Cooperation in air defense was also terminated 
as Egypt withdrew surface-to-air missiles it had provided earlier 
and halted work on the air defenses it had been developing to pro- 
tect Tripoli, Benghazi, and Tobruk. 

Libya then turned to Pakistan for help. A small Pakistani advi- 
sory contingent that had been giving training on helicopters and 
transport aircraft was expanded to about 600 — including 40 pilots. 
Small numbers of Italian, French, and Yugoslav instructors were 
also introduced for training. 

Military Cooperation with the Soviet Union 

Because of Libya's forcing the evacuation from Libya of British 
and United States military personnel in 1970, the Libyans were 
rebuffed in a renewed effort to obtain military equipment from the 
West, except for limited British help with the developing navy. 
Therefore, Libya turned elsewhere for aid. In December 1974, 
Libya disclosed a large-scale arms purchase agreement with the 
Soviet Union, involving Tu-22 bombers, MiG-23 fighters, helicop- 
ters, T-62 tanks, and antitank and antiaircraft missiles. A second 
agreement in May 1975 heralded an even greater flow of Soviet 
arms and military advisers to Libya throughout the 1970s. Included 
in the agreement were submarines, of which a total of six were even- 
tually transferred. Subsequent agreements followed in 1977, 1978, 
and 1980. The value of these transactions was estimated at over 
US$20 billion between 1973 and 1985. 

The new round of arms purchases in 1978, precipitated by the 
clashes with Egypt in the preceding year, included the MiG-25 Fox- 
bat in its fighter, reconnaissance, and training configurations. This 
sale to Libya was the first recorded time the Soviet Union furnished 
the MiG-25 to any country not participating in the Warsaw Pact. 
Deliveries of sophisticated military hardware were accompanied 
by Soviet and East European technicians estimated by the United 
States Department of State to have numbered 2,600 in 1984. In 
late 1985, these technicians were augmented by a considerable num- 
ber of specialists to install and help operate the new 


Libya: A Country Study 

SA-5 missiles. Approximately 7,600 Libyan military personnel had 
received training in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe by 1984. 

Deliveries of modern Soviet armaments continued during the 
early 1980s, although they tapered off markedly between 1983 
(US$2.9 billion) and 1985 (US$1 .3 billion), according to estimates 
compiled by ACDA. Libya was the first non-Warsaw Pact recipient 
of Haze antisubmarine helicopters. Natya-class minesweepers and 
Nanuchka-class fast-missile corvettes helped expand the navy. The 
three batteries of SA-5 missile launchers, including early warning 
and surveillance radar, delivered toward the close of 1985 failed 
in their purpose of deterring maneuvers by United States naval 
elements in the Gulf of Sidra. Nonetheless, when Jallud visited 
Moscow several months later, it was officially announced that the 
Soviets had agreed to a new request for aid. Included were an 
improved version of the SA-5, new monitoring and early warning 
radar, antijamming devices, Mi-24 helicopters, and additional gun- 
boats and fighter planes. By early 1987, major arms shipments 
reportedly had been cut off, either because of Qadhafi's failure to 
make promised oil deliveries or because of Soviet disillusionment 
over Libyan performance against United States planes and the 
abandonment of vast amounts of modern equipment in Chad. 

The massive Libyan purchases brought the Soviet Union eco- 
nomic gains and enabled the Soviets to extend their strategic influ- 
ence farther into the Mediterranean while appearing to reward the 
anti-imperialist and Arab unity stance of the Libyan regime. 
Nevertheless, Qadhafi's increasingly undependable behavior, his 
estrangement from other Arab and African nations, and his set- 
backs in employing modern Soviet weaponry apparently made the 
Soviets skeptical of Qadhafi and reluctant to be closely identified 
with him. Although in 1984 the two countries issued a joint decla- 
ration in principle to enter into a treaty of friendship and coopera- 
tion and confirmed their intention in 1986, such an agreement, 
which would obligate the Soviet Union to come to Qadhafi's aid 
if attacked, had not been concluded by early 1987. 

As of early 1987, Qadhafi had refrained from granting the Soviets 
permanent shore facilities or air bases on Libyan territory. How- 
ever, Soviet combatant ships had paid frequent port calls, and anti- 
submarine planes of the Soviet naval aviation branch had 
occasionally been rotated to Libyan airfields. 

Western Restrictions on Arms Transactions 

Libya's radicalism, its reckless ventures beyond its borders, and 
its links to terrorists caused among Western countries a growing 
reluctance to supply Libya with lethal equipment, a reluctance 


A Soviet-supplied Su- 22 fighter of the Libyan Air Force 
Courtesy United States Department of Defense 

amounting to formal or de facto embargoes by most Western arms 
manufacturers. A policy of refusing to ship arms to Libya was 
reaffirmed in the Tokyo Declaration on International Terrorism 
in May 1986, signed by the governments of Canada, West Ger- 
many, France, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States. Libya 
has nonetheless continued to look to non-Soviet suppliers, turning 
to such peripheral sources as Yugoslavia, Greece, and Brazil. 

United States restrictions on military sales date from the mid- 
1970s when the delivery of eight C-130 Lockheed cargo planes 
ordered in 1972 was blocked out of fear that they would be used 
for military ventures in Uganda. In 1978 spare parts were banned 
for the C-130s Libya already had on hand, and an export license 
was refused for two Boeing 727s. Qadhafi angrily rejected accusa- 
tions against Libya of supporting international terrorism, describing 
the American attitude as "both puerile and unworthy of a great 
power." He denied that Libya financed terrorism and asserted that 
the aircraft carriers of the United States Sixth Fleet were engaged 
in "terrorism" by their very presence in the Mediterranean. Having 
initially rejected a permit for the export of 400 trucks manufac- 
tured by the Oshkosh Company, the United States government 
relented after receiving written guarantees that the trucks would 
be used solely for agricultural purposes. However, upon their deliv- 
ery in 1979, the trucks were converted to military transporters by 
Canadian mechanics using Austrian equipment. 


Libya: A Country Study 

After Libya canceled the treaties with Britain and the United 
States, France became its main alternative arms supplier. Support 
for the Mirage fighters by Dassault, a French manufacturer, con- 
sisted of both pilot and ground crew training in Libya and France 
and periodic major overhauls of planes at the Dassault plant. 
However, the strained relations between the two countries over 
Chad brought an end to this support. Reportedly, France held 
discussions concerning the more advanced Mirage 2000 in return 
for Libyan compliance with its 1983 withdrawal agreement from 
Chad, but Libya's continued involvement there ruled out any 
sale. The only major French arms transfer was the US$600 mil- 
lion sale of ten Combattante fast-attack craft with missiles, the last 
of which was delivered in 1984 under a contract negotiated six years 

Libya was involved in a series of significant transactions with 
Italy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 the Italian aircraft 
company Siai-Marchetti secured a contract to supply SF-260 light 
aircraft intended for training and reconnaissance. The G-222 mili- 
tary transport plane assembled by Aeritalia was also supplied to 
the Libyans. The Italian firm of Oto Melara received orders for 
a large number of Palmaria 155mm self-propelled howitzers. Over 
a three-year period, a complete renovation of a British-built frigate 
was carried out in a Genoa shipyard. Four corvettes of the Assad 
type were contracted for in 1974, but the last of these vessels was 
not delivered until 1982. Both the frigate and the corvettes were 
fitted with Otomat missiles. 

An arms-supply relationship with Brazil began in 1977 with a 
Libyan order for several hundred armored cars at a cost of over 
US$100 million. A contract in 1981 for US$250 million covered 
purchases of additional armored cars, rockets, bombs, and missile 
launchers. Negotiations were interrupted after Brazil's 1983 sei- 
zure of four transiting Libyan aircraft loaded with weapons for 
Nicaragua. Resumption of negotiations in 1986 was expected to 
lead to Brazilian sale of EMB-312 Tucano trainer aircraft, 
EMB-121 Xingu transports, and additional Cascavel and Urutu 
armored vehicles. 

In late 1985, Libya signed an agreement with Greece covering 
the sale of US$500 million in equipment, including the Artemis-30 
antiaircraft gun and the Steyr armored personnel carrier, manufac- 
tured in Greece under license from Austria. Yugoslavia was reported 
to be supplying a number of Galeb jet trainer aircraft in addition 
to those already in service, as well as Koncar-class missile boats 
to be armed with Soviet-designed Styx missiles. 


National Security 

The Search for Nuclear Technology 

In 1975 Libya had ratified the United Nations (UN) Nuclear 
Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by the Idris regime in 1969. In 
1980 an agreement was reached with the International Atomic 
Energy Agency placing all of Libya's nuclear installations under 
international inspection. Despite these steps, in the mid- and late 
1970s, Qadhafi repeatedly proclaimed his country's determination 
to acquire nuclear weapons, primarily because he was convinced 
that his archenemy, Israel, had achieved such a military capability. 

Qadhafi sought help in obtaining nuclear technology from a num- 
ber of countries, including the People's Republic of China. Among 
these efforts, the cooperation with Pakistan launched in 1977 seemed 
for a time to be producing material results. Libya appeared to be 
providing financial assistance and, later, deliveries of uranium "yel- 
low cake" originating in Niger in the hope of eventually being com- 
pensated by weapons from Pakistan. However, in an interview with 
an Indian newspaper in March 1986, Qadhafi declared that Libya 
would never help Pakistan acquire an atomic bomb. He said: "We 
consider nuclear weapons production a great mistake against 

A 10-megawatt nuclear research reactor supplied by the Soviet 
Union in 1979 was installed at a research center at Tajura near 
Tripoli staffed by 750 Libyan specialists and technicians. Many 
students were sent abroad; a group of 200 was studying in the 
United States until early 1983 when the United States proscribed 
training Libyans in nuclear science. Libya planned to buy a power 
station from the Soviet Union, but, dissatisfied with the technol- 
ogy involved, negotiated with the Belgian firm of Belgonucleaire 
to take over the engineering contract and supply much of the needed 
equipment. After the United States objected, fearing use of the 
equipment in weapons development, Belgium decided in 1984 to 
refuse the US$1 billion contract. Shortly thereafter, Moscow's com- 
mitment to construct an 880-megawatt power station to be located 
in the Surt region was reaffirmed. It was to cost over US$4 bil- 
lion, with repayment to stretch over 15 to 18 years. 

Libya had a theoretical capability of delivering nuclear weapons 
in the form of Scud and FROG missiles and missiles delivered by 
medium-range Tu-22 bombers. Suspicions that Libya was seek- 
ing to acquire a medium-range missile capability were aroused in 
1980 when it was revealed that the West German firm, Orbital 
Transport-und-Raketen Aktiengesellschaft (OTRAG), had built 
a rocket-testing base in the Libyan desert. OTRAG, which had 
earlier been forced to give up a testing site in Zaire, claimed that 


Libya: A Country Study 

it was working on a nonmilitary rocket to enable Third World coun- 
tries to launch satellites cheaply. 

Arms Production and Military Cooperation 

During the 1970s some efforts were launched toward greater self- 
reliance in military materiel, but little has resulted from these ini- 
tiatives. Although Libya has supplied weapons and equipment to 
other governments in direct pursuit of its foreign policy, these 
weapons have been from Soviet-supplied stocks in the vast Libyan 
inventory. In 1978 Yugoslavia agreed to build a large plant in Libya 
to manufacture ammunition and spare parts for Soviet weapons. 
In early 1987, the extent to which this commitment was imple- 
mented was unknown, but even repair and maintenance workshops 
have remained wholly inadequate to service the Soviet- supplied 
equipment and must be operated largely by foreign technicians. 
A plan to assemble in Libya some of the SF-260 training planes 
acquired from Italy did not materialize. Consequently, Libya's 
manufacturing capacity remains limited to the production of basic 
quartermaster items, uniforms, and some small arms and ammu- 

In addition to supplying arms to dissident and rebel forces in 
several countries of Africa and other parts of the world, Libya 
assisted friendly regimes with surplus equipment, but generally not 
on a consistent or long-term basis. In the two years after the Tripar- 
tite Agreement was signed with Ethiopia and the People's Demo- 
cratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) in August 1981 , Libyan 
aid to Ethiopia in the form of weapons and financial backing 
amounted to half of all Libya's international aid. Libya and Syria 
have somewhat parallel aims in the Middle East, and Libya has 
financed much of Syria's arms acquired directly from the Soviet 
Union. Among African nations, Benin and Ghana have been 
recipients of weapons and materiel, in part in recognition for vot- 
ing with Libya in international forums and in part because Libya 
has been permitted to use them as transit and recruitment points 
for its activities in other countries of Africa. 

In late 1984, a five-year cooperation agreement was entered into 
with Malta under which Libya was to provide a military training 
team and helicopters and would consign some of its naval units 
for maintenance in Maltese shipyards. A military agreement was 
also concluded with Sudan in 1985 after the government of Jaafar 
an Numayri was overthrown by a group less hostile to Libya. Libya 
pledged to supply a quantity of trucks, trailers, and spares for Soviet 
equipment already in the Sudanese inventory. In return, the 
Libyans reportedly were permitted to set up a base in the western 


National Security 

region of Darfur where several hundred Libyan troops joined with 
Chadian insurgents fighting to topple the Chadian government. 
Although Sudan later claimed that it was severing these new ties 
with Libya, as of late 1986 Libya reportedly had not fully evacu- 
ated Sudanese territory. 

In spite of Libya's and Iran's differing goals and mutual suspi- 
cions, Libya supported the Iranian Revolution and, unlike other 
Arab regimes (apart from Syria), backed Iran in its war against 
Iraq. Qadhafi has provided the Tehran government with T-55 
tanks, antitank and antiaircraft artillery, ammunition, and Scud 

International Terrorism and Support for Insurgent Groups 

Since Qadhafi' s rise to power, Libya has chronically employed 
terrorism and revolutionary groups as primary instruments for ful- 
filling its international ambitions. The main targets of terrorist activ- 
ity have been Libyan dissidents living abroad and prominent 
political figures of moderate Arab and African countries. Qadhafi 
has openly declared that "the Revolution has destroyed those who 
oppose it inside the country and now it must pursue the rest 
abroad." A concerted drive to assassinate anti-Qadhafi exiles 
resulted in the murder of eleven Libyan dissidents in 1980 and 1981 . 
A further five attacks were sponsored by Libya in 1985. Plots were 
allegedly uncovered against President Habre of Chad in 1984 and 
President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire in 1985. Earlier, there was 
evidence that Libyan agents had targeted Arab moderates, including 
Presidents Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Jaafar an 
Numayri of Sudan, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, King Hussein 
of Jordan, and King Hassan II of Morocco. 

Qadhafi has endeavored to undermine moderate Arab govern- 
ments judged not to be militant enough in their attitude toward 
Israel or to be too closely tied to the West. Sudan under Numayri 
was a priority target because it cooperated with the West and with 
Egypt. Arms and funds were funneled to Sudanese rebels based 
in Ethiopia in their guerrilla warfare against the central govern- 
ment. In early 1983, Libya was accused of having masterminded 
a coup attempt that miscarried badly. The coup plan called for 
Libyan planes to bomb public buildings in the capital of Khartoum 
while dissidents took over the center of the city. When the plan 
became known and Egyptian and United States aircraft were 
deployed at Numayri 's request, Qadhafi called a halt to the oper- 
ation. However, in 1984, a plane believed to be Libyan attempted 
to destroy a radio station at Umm Durman, Sudan, that was broad- 
casting condemnations of Qadhafi 's policies. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Since late 1980, Qadhafi has aided the Somali National Salva- 
tion Front, an insurgent group operating out of Ethiopia. He has 
kindled unrest in North Africa in the case of Algeria by providing 
money and a base to dissidents, such as former president Ahmed 
Ben Bella, and in Tunisia by recruiting dissidents from the large 
numbers of Tunisian workers in Libya to conduct raids and 

In addition to repeated interventions in Chad in his efforts to 
impose a leadership that would be amenable to Libyan influence, 
Qadhafi has been accused of providing arms and training to Tuareg 
tribesmen at a camp at Sabha. His goal has been to stir up the 
Tuareg into demanding a union carved out of existing Sahelian 
states, a union that would be under Libyan influence. 

Libya has contributed to Niger's fears by its annexation of a strip 
of territory on Niger's northern border and its backing of a coup 
attempt against the president of Niger in 1976. Relations with other 
African countries — including Senegal, Gambia, Togo, Burkina 
Faso, and Zaire — have been embittered by Qadhafi 's plotting and 
support for radical dissidents. 

Beginning in the 1980s, Qadhafi extended his activities into Latin 
America and Asia. Arms and money allegedly have been made 
available to insurgents in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as 
to the M-19 terrorist group in Colombia. In South Asia, Libya 
has been involved with opponents of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi 
governments and in Southeast Asia has provided help to Muslim 
minorities, notably the Moro separatists on Mindanao in the 

In the Middle East, Qadhafi has been motivated by the aim of 
destroying Israel and of punishing those Arab elements willing to 
compromise in the interest of regional peace. The smaller, more 
radical factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have 
received training and arms from Libya as well as financing for their 
activities. According to the United States Department of State, 
Libya's contribution in 1981 alone amounted to nearly US$100 
million. In 1985 attention was focused on Qadhafi 's links with the 
Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal Organization, more formally known 
as the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and with the Popular Front 
for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The Abu Nidal 
Organization was believed responsible for the shooting of the Israeli 
ambassador in London, the hijacking of an Egyptian airliner, and 
attacks on the El Al and Trans World Airlines ticket counters at 
the Rome and Vienna airports. The Department of State charged 
that millions of dollars in Libyan funds had gone to the Abu Nidal 
Organization, that its top figures were resident in Libya, and that 



Libya: A Country Study 

Libya had provided training and travel documents to its teams 
mounting terrorist attacks. Although other Middle Eastern states 
such as Syria and Iran remained involved in terrorism, the Depart- 
ment of State maintained that Libya had become the most active, 
especially against American and European travelers. 

The affinity of Qadhafi for the Abu Nidal Organization and other 
radical Palestinian factions is explained by the bitter enmity they 
share for the main Arafat wing of the PLO, and by their rejection 
of any form of negotiations with Israel. Terrorist attacks of the kind 
they have successfully launched serve Qadhafi 's purpose by fur- 
ther elevating tensions in the Middle East and blighting the 
prospects of peace initiatives. 

Public Order and Internal Security 

The Police System 

Throughout its pre-Revolutionary history, the mission and oper- 
ating concepts underlying the Libyan police system were the same 
as those in many other Muslim societies. The traditional concept 
of police or shurtah was a broad one. Because the shurtah were used 
from time to time by the government in power to undertake new 
conquests, security force commanders often had full-sized armies 
at their disposal. Domestically, however, the shurtah were primarily 
responsible for suppressing dissidence and insurrections as well as 
performing other internal security duties. The latter duties typi- 
cally embraced the kinds of administrative and judicial functions 
often required of urban and rural police, such as the prevention 
of crime, investigation and arrest of criminals, and maintenance 
of public order. Some of these concepts have survived in present- 
day Libya; others have been altered in response to the changing 
needs of the society. 

Shortly after the 1969 coup, military officers were temporarily 
integrated into key police positions to guard against a countercoup. 
A complete reorganization of the police followed over the next three 
years. An early step in the process of stripping the police of paramili- 
tary status was the consolidation of the regional police forces into 
a unified organization under the Ministry of Interior. In 1971 new 
separate agencies to handle civil defense and fire protection were 
provided for by law. Ministerial decrees established other units, 
such as the Central Traffic Department, the Central Department 
for Criminal Investigation, the Arab International Criminal Police 
Bureau, the Ports Security Department, the Identity Investigation, 
and the Police Training Department. A special police law promul- 
gated by the RCC in January 1972 spelled out the new functions 


National Security 

of the police force, which was formally redesignated the Police at 
the Service of the People and the Revolution. The police were 
specifically charged with responsibility for "the administration 
of prisons, civil defense activities, passport and nationality affairs, 
identity card affairs, and other functions set forth by laws and 

Individual police units were under the jurisdiction of regional 
security directorates throughout the country, with primary respon- 
sibility for enforcing the laws and administering the police falling 
under the minister of interior and his deputy. A special Police Affairs 
Council — composed of the deputy minister as chairman, the direc- 
tors of the central police department, the regional chiefs, and a legal 
adviser — was empowered to coordinate activities of various police 
branches and to issue decrees on police matters. 

Police ranks followed closely those of the armed forces. An officer 
candidate had to be a Libyan citizen at least twenty years of age, 
of good conduct and behavior, in good physical condition, and not 
married to a foreigner. He also had to be a graduate of the police 
academy. Police work was considered a prestigious occupation, and 
its attractive working conditions and benefits reportedly produced 
well-qualified applicants who underwent stiff competition for vacan- 
cies. However, standards may have deteriorated as more lucra- 
tive opportunities in the oil industry and in government became 
available for those with sufficient education. 

In a counterpart to the media attacks on the professional mili- 
tary in 1983, the official Libyan press targeted the police as lack- 
ing revolutionary zeal. The press demanded greater direct 
responsibility for the masses in protecting the people's security. 
Articles recalled that the police were descended from the mobile 
forces of the Idris regime, headed by "fascist, bourgeois officers" 
who had suppressed all manifestations of discontent with the royalist 
system. Police officials were accused of engaging in licentious behav- 
ior, of drinking liquor, and of carrying on illegal businesses. They 
were charged with being "feudalistic" in their behavior, of being 
ill educated because many lacked a high-school diploma, and often 
unfit for duty because of advancing age. 

Declaring that "security is the responsibility of the people as a 
whole in the same way as the defense of the homeland is," Qadhafi 
announced in 1985 that the police would henceforward be known 
as the People's Security Force. Whether this name change accom- 
plished much seemed doubtful; the official press complained that 
all that had happened was that signs over the police stations now 
read "People's Security Station." 


Libya: A Country Study 

Incidence of Crime 

The Qadhafi regime has regarded crime as an anomaly in con- 
flict with its revolutionary goals inasmuch as all Libyans are 
expected to contribute to the common good of society and its social, 
political, and economic advancement. During an earlier phase of 
his rule, Qadhafi deplored a pattern of increasingly unlawful behav- 
ior that included an unacceptable incidence of theft, violence, and 
traffic accidents. He had hoped to follow the British model of police 
officers enforcing public order with "a notebook, a pencil or a map 
to guide people, but not a gun or a stick." Instead, he lamented, 
he was obliged to depend on an armed police force because "the 
Third World will need another 500 years to understand that a police- 
man, even unarmed, must be respected." 

Because meaningful data had not been available for many years, 
no up-to-date assessment of the extent and nature of criminal activ- 
ity could be made in 1987. When last reported, statistics showed 
a high incidence of property theft and relatively fewer violent crimes, 
such as rape, manslaughter, and murder. A significant number 
of convictions were under the category of "crimes against freedom, 
honor, and the public," which could range from public drunken- 
ness to student demonstrations and more serious political offenses. 
To judge from reports in the official press in the mid-1980s, the 
nation's economic strains were reflected in a growing number of 
cases of smuggling, illegal deposit of money abroad, bribery, and 
misappropriation of funds by public officials. 

Corruption in government has been an abiding concern. In 1975 
a tough new law made the acceptance of a bribe by a public offi- 
cial punishable by up to ten years in prison plus fines set at twice 
the amount of the bribe. A person proffering a bribe could receive 
up to five years in prison plus fines of up to LD500. According 
to press reports, verdicts handed down by people's courts involved 
relatively moderate jail sentences of one to two years but harsh fines 
of LD50,000 and more. An official found guilty of paying unearned 
overtime salaries to relatives and friends, however, was condemned 
to a ten-year prison term. 

Criminal Justice System 

The Libyan system of criminal justice has been heavily influenced 
by Islamic law, particularly since Qadhafi's proclamation of the 
Popular Revolution on April 15, 1973. On that date, the Libyan 
leader announced that all existing laws formulated by the monar- 
chy were to be replaced by the sharia, the sacred law of Islam. Some 
amendments to bring the criminal code into conformity with Islam 


National Security 

had been made before this proclamation. In October 1972, the 
government enacted a law providing for the amputation of the right 
hands of convicted thieves. (As a modern note to this traditional 
Islamic punishment, the government gave assurances that ampu- 
tation would be performed at a hospital under sanitary conditions 
with an anesthetic.) In practice, this penalty has not been com- 
monly imposed. 

Qadhafi's proclamation involved a reorientation of Libya's entire 
criminal code, because, according to the 1954 code, no act was a 
crime unless defined as such by law. Yet the code also specified 
that nothing in the criminal code affected the individual rights 
provided for in Islamic sharia. The two provisions were basically 
incompatible because the 1954 code identified crimes in decreas- 
ing order of seriousness as felonies, misdemeanors, and contraven- 
tions, assigning maximum sentences to each, whereas under the 
sharia an act could be — depending upon the circumstances — 
mandatory, commendable, permissible, reprehensible, or forbid- 

Efforts to align the criminal code's three categories of offense 
with the five classifications embodied in the sharia involved Libyan 
legal and religious scholars in an extensive and slow-moving process 
to minimize the obvious contradictions in the two systems. Changes 
in the code's provisions were announced from time to time, but 
the basic philosophical issues had not been completely resolved by 

Amendments to the criminal code after 1973 addressed both 
moral issues related to Islamic beliefs and purely secular matters, 
notably those concerning state security. In official legal announce- 
ments in 1973 and 1974, lashings and imprisonment of adulterers, 
imprisonment of homosexuals for up to five years, and floggings 
for those transgressing the fast of Ramadan were issued as laws 
"in line with positive Islamic legislation." Another law provided 
forty lashes for any Muslim who drank or served alcoholic bever- 
ages. For alcoholic-related offenses, non-Muslims could receive fines 
or imprisonment, and fines and jail terms were set for possession 
of or trafficking in liquor. 

In August 1975, following a major coup attempt, the criminal 
code was further revised to strengthen state security. Such actions 
as "scheming" with foreigners to harm Libya's military or politi- 
cal position, facilitating war against the state, revealing state or 
defense secrets, infiltration into military reservations, and posses- 
sion of means of espionage were made subject to harsh penalties, 
including life imprisonment and hanging. Punishments for public 
servants were stiffer than for ordinary citizens. 


Libya: A Country Study 

An increasing number of acts have brought the threat of execu- 
tion. A 1975 law provided that membership in a political party 
opposing the principles of the 1969 Revolution could result in death. 
In 1977 economic crimes, such as damaging oil installations or stock- 
piles of basic commodities, were added. Qadhafi's repeated calls 
for abolition of the death sentence have not been translated into 
legislative action. 

The Libyan criminal justice system under the Qadhafi-led 
government has been characterized by many repressive features. 
Victims reported torture and beatings during interrogation as a 
matter of practice, and long jail sentences for political nonconfor- 
mity. Other irregularities included bypassing the regular court sys- 
tem by special tribunals and holding show trials. The international 
human rights organization, Amnesty International, has repeatedly 
reported evidence of grave violations of civil rights and of Libyan 
law. Most of Amnesty International's inquiries and appeals to Libya 
to free political prisoners, to abandon torture to extract confessions, 
and to commute death penalties have gone unanswered. 

An account by Amnesty International in 1977 cited twenty-six 
executions (the first death penalties that had been carried out in 
twenty-three years), large numbers of Libyans who had been held 
in detention for up to four years without court action, trials that 
were "anything but fair and impartial," and defendants who were 
deprived of their basic legal rights under Libyan law. When it was 
pointed out to Libyan authorities that they were failing to conform 
to UN agreements Libya had ratified — the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights — the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs replied that there 
were currently no political prisoners in Libyan prisons and that 
all means of defense and safeguards of justice were provided for 
accused persons. In 1978 Amnesty International asserted that the 
people's court system violated the UN agreements because the 
courts were composed largely of government representatives rather 
than members of an impartial judiciary. Moreover, all trials in peo- 
ple's courts were held in secret and no appeals were permitted. 

A further report by Amnesty International described a new ser- 
ies of breaches of judicial norms between 1982 and 1984. It cited 
the trial in 1982 of twenty-five individuals on charges of member- 
ship in an illegal organization (the Baath — Arab Socialist 
Resurrection — Party). The accused were acquitted because their 
confessions were obtained through torture. In violation of Libyan 
law, they were retried in 1983 before a revolutionary court headed 
by a captain in the special security branch and received severe sen- 
tences, including death penalties in three cases. In 1984, eight people 


National Security 

were hanged publicly following decisions of basic people's congresses 
in their localities that they were members of the Muslim Brother- 
hood, an international Islamic movement banned by Qadhafi as 
an illegal political party. In the same year, two students were hanged 
before thousands of their fellow students at Al Fatah University 
in Tripoli. No explanation was given of the charges or of the judi- 
cial proceedings, although the students were possibly tried before 
the student revolutionary committee. Amnesty International has 
been unsuccessful in gaining its representatives admission to trials 
and has not received replies to most of its inquiries and appeals. 

The penal system was a responsibility of the Secretariat of Interior 
and was administered by a department of the police administra- 
tion. Three institutions — the Central Prison at Tripoli, Kuway- 
fiyah Prison at Benghazi, and Jdeida Prison outside Tripoli — were 
known to exist, and smaller facilities in less populated centers were 
assumed to be part of the system. Qadhafi granted permission for 
visits by Amnesty International to several prisons in the late 1970s, 
but the necessary arrangements were never made by Libyan 
authorities. Subsequent efforts to inspect living conditions of polit- 
ical prisoners have been unsuccessful. 

According to a report submitted by Libya to the UN, the pri- 
son system was reorganized under Law No. 47 in 1975. Accord- 
ing to the report, the thrust of this law was to change the prisons 
from institutions of "punishment and terror" to ones where inmates 
were afforded education and training as part of a program to reha- 
bilitate offenders. The law envisaged a series of increasingly less 
restrictive penal facilities in which inmates could earn moves up- 
ward through a hierarchy of prisons by good behavior and an ap- 
propriate attitude. As of 1987 the extent to which these objectives 
had been realized had not been made public. 

State of Internal Security 

In the late 1980s, many segments of Libyan society deeply re- 
sented the authoritarian nature of the Libyan government under 
Qadhafi. The extent of silent opposition could not be assessed with 
certainty but has been estimated at more than 50 percent by out- 
side observers. Dissent was hard to measure because all news media 
were strictly controlled to serve as instruments of the state, and 
no forms of association were permitted without the endorsement 
of the regime. Citizens were fearful of voicing discontent or utter- 
ing critical opinions that might be reported by a widespread in- 
former network. Punishment for open dissent was arbitrary and 
could be extraordinarily severe. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Internal security mechanisms reaching into every corner of Lib- 
yan society, and fears of harsh retribution have successfully prevent- 
ed antipathy to Qadhafi's actions from reaching a stage of public 
demonstrations or open questioning. As many as 50,000 Libyans — 
mostly from the more prosperous classes — have taken up residence 
abroad, but the opposition groups that have sprung up among the 
exiles have not presented a convincing threat to the regime (see 
The Opposition to Qadhafi, ch. 4). 

Numerous attempts have been launched to overturn Qadhafi's 
rule. In most instances, these attempts have originated among mili- 
tary officers who have access to weapons and the necessary com- 
munications and organizational networks. In no case, however, 
did they appear to come near to achieving their goal. The effec- 
tiveness of the internal security apparatus and the infiltration of 
officers loyal to Qadhafi have frustrated most plots before they could 
develop sufficiently to have a chance of success. 

Among the reported coup attempts, possibly the most widespread 
was uncovered among disaffected officers of the RCC in 1975. A 
large number of personnel were tried in secret by a military court, 
with many sentenced to death and hundreds condemned to long 
prison terms. An undisclosed number of officers and civilians were 
arrested in an abortive coup in January 1983; five officers were 
executed, including the deputy commander of the People's Militia. 
A coup attempt, reportedly involving bloody fighting in front of 
the fortified barracks where Qadhafl resides in a Tripoli suburb, 
occurred in May 1984. According to the United States Department 
of State, over 5,000 were arrested, many tortured, and perhaps 
more than 100 executed. A leading opposition group, the National 
Front for the Salvation of Libya, took credit for this failed opera- 
tion, although Qadhafl blamed the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Another reported plot in March 1985 was said to have been foiled 
when it was infiltrated by persons loyal to Qadhafi. Some sixty mili- 
tary officers, disgruntled over the country's economic mismanage- 
ment and extravagance, were said to have been arrested. 

A further instance of disaffection occurred in November 1985. 
Colonel Hassan Ishkal, a senior officer and military governor of 
Surt, was reportedly summarily executed after being summoned 
to Qadhafi's headquarters. It was believed that he had broken with 
Qadhafi over the interference of revolutionary guards in the mili- 
tary and over Qadhafi's adventurist foreign policies. 

Because of these coup attempts, protective security surround- 
ing Qadhafi was carried to unusual lengths. His travel plans were 
concealed and changed abruptly, his patterns of residence were dis- 
guised, and he moved about in a heavily armored convoy. His 


National Security 

personal bodyguard was composed of a Presidential Guard, drawn 
from his own tribal group. Moreover, there were reports that 
Qadhafi constantly moved senior military officers from one com- 
mand to another so that no officer could develop a unified com- 
mand capable of threatening the regime. 

The major instrument used by Qadhafi to detect and avert coup 
attempts was an extensive internal security apparatus. As of early 
1987, details of the salient features of the security organization were 
generally lacking. The system installed in the early 1970s with Egyp- 
tian help was modeled on its Egyptian counterpart and was once 
described as "composed of several overlapping but autonomously 
directed intelligence machines." As it further evolved, internal secu- 
rity functioned on several levels, beginning with Qadhafi 's per- 
sonal bodyguard unit (reportedly given technical assistance by East 
German advisers). The secret service and, at a lower level, the police 
were constantly on the alert for suspicious conduct, as were the 
revolutionary committees and the basic people's congresses. The 
committees constituted an effective informer network and may also 
act independently of other security agencies when authorized and 
encouraged by Qadhafi. This multilayered complex assured tight 
control over the activity of individuals in virtually every community. 

* * * 

Although published data on the Libyan armed forces is limited 
and often contradictory, some details can be found in the article 
on Libya by Gwynne Dyer in the compendium World Armies. Addi- 
tionally, assessments of Libyan military capabilities in relation to 
other armies of the Middle East are available in The Middle East 
Military Balance (ed. Mark Heller). A number of aspects of the role 
of military power in Qadhafi 's regime are treated in Richard B. 
Parker's North Africa: Regional Tensions and Strategic Concerns. Reports 
by the United States Department of State, The Libyan Problem (1983) 
and Libya Under Qadhafi: A Pattern of Aggression (1986) summarize 
much of what is known of Libya's attempts to subvert other govern- 
ments, to assassinate its opponents in exile, and to support inter- 
national terrorism. Libyan relations with the Soviet Union are 
analyzed in Lisa Anderson's "Qadhafi and the Kremlin." Events 
in Chad and other developments involving the Libyan military are 
reviewed in the monthly Africa Research Bulletin and in Keesing's Con- 
temporary Archives. (For further information and complete citations, 
see Bibliography.) 




1 Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

2 Educational Enrollment, Selected Academic Years, 1975-86 

3 Number of Teachers, Selected Academic Years, 1975-86 

4 Economically Active Population by Sector of Employment, 


5 Allocations of Development Plans, 1976-80 and 1981-85 

6 Gross Domestic Product by Sector, 1978-84 

7 Production of Selected Agricultural Commodities, 1981-84 

8 Balance of Payments 

9 Direction of Trade, 1978-84 

10 Major Army Equipment, 1986 

11 Major Navy Equipment, 1986 

12 Major Air Force Equipment, 1986 



Table 1. Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

When you know Multiply by To find 

Millimeters 0.04 inches 

Centimeters 0.39 inches 

Meters 3.3 feet 

Kilometers 0.62 miles 

Hectares (10,000 m 2 ) 2.47 acres 

Square kilometers 0.39 square miles 

Cubic meters 35.3 cubic feet 

Liters 0.26 gallons 

Kilograms 2.2 pounds 

Metric tons 0.98 long tons 

1.1 short tons 

2,204 pounds 

Degrees Celsius 9 degrees Fahrenheit 

(Centigrade) divide by 5 

and add 32 


Libya: A Country Study 



a deed 

o o o o 
o o o o 
<o q cq <o 
i-T co <~o in 


c3 c3 d 

a d a a 


o . 

O o3 

<=> d 


CO d 

d d 


a d d 

Ctf 03 (3 

d d d 

§ i 

c/3 O 

t/3 -w 

c o 



T3 ^ 

•3 "O 

"3 « 

2 3 

O r= 

^8 § & 

5> C 











CO *H 

cn co 
cm — < 

N : 

2 M oo 


Libya: A Country Study 

Table 4. Economically Active Population by Sector of Employment, 1984 







Agriculture, forestry, and fishing 



, , 80,000 




fiR 000 




Public utilities 





Other 1 





100.0 2 

Total (Libyans) 





1 Includes education and health. 

2 Figures may not add to total because of rounding. 

Source: Based on information from Central Bank of Libya, Annual Report, 1984. Tripoli, 
n.d., 39. 

Table 5. Allocations of Development Plans, 1976-80 and 1981-85 
(value in millions of Libyan dinars) 1 

1976-80 1981-85 











Industry (light and heavy) 





Public works 2 





Transportation and communications 






















100.0 3 


100.0 3 

1 For value of the Libyan dinar — see Glossary. 

2 Figure for 1981-85 includes all allocations for utilities and electricity. 

3 Percentages may not add to total because of rounding. 

Source: Based on information from Stace Birks and Clive Sinclair, "Libya: Problems of 
a Rentier State," in Richard Lawless and Allan Findlay, eds., North Africa: Con- 
temporary Politics and Economic Development, New York, 1984, 243; and from Central 
Bank of Libya, Annual Report, 1984, Tripoli, n.d., 55, 60. 



Table 6. Gross Domestic Product by Sector, 1978-84 
(in percentages) 





























Oil and gas, mining 








Public service and administration . . . 








Transportation and communications . 








Other, including manufacturing .... 









100 * 

100 * 

100 * 

100 * 

100 * 

100 * 


* Percentages may not add to total because of rounding. 

Source: Based on information from Central Bank of Libya, Annual Report, 1984, Tripoli, 
n.d., 31. 

Table 7. Production of Selected Agricultural Commodities, 1981-84 






1984 * 


thousands of 

metric tons 











. . . millions 





metric tons 




819. P 























metric tons 











n.a. — not available. 
* Preliminary figures. 

Source: Based on information from Central Bank of Libya, Annual Report, 1984, Tripoli, 
n.d., 33. 


Libya: A Country Study 


Ci 5 





in in O co 

O * CO X) 

co X) CD 

o" m~ ~-T 1 

X> X) O 

H cd <r> 


o X> CO CM CO 

O X> co ^ rv 

O) tN ^ co Oi I 

CD lO -"f CM 1 

o o .2 

& 8) "2 

o o 

x a 

: S3 

6 £ o 



































































































































































































CO O <X> CD i-h 


O cm t-h t-< 

s * 
g £ 

— «' cu 

-a J 

M o 

13 § "g •§ 

*-< C H tn 

§ s H s § « 1 

CJ C <3 Sh » <D 5 

^ si s : 

1 I A o g | S 





C - w m 



Table 9. Direction of Trade, 1978-84 
(in percentages) 

Country 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 


1 7 

1 i 

n a 


O Q 

4 9 

9 ft 

9 1 


3 6 








16 2 








6 3 







9 n 

1 i 
i .j 

A A. 

. o 



United States 








West Germany .... 
















Total exports . . . 







































United States 








West Germany .... 
















Total imports . . . 








Sources: Based on information from The Economist Intelligence Unit, Quarterly Economic 
Review of Libya, London, 1983; The Economist Intelligence Unit, Quarterly Eco- 
nomic Review of Libya, London, 1985; and Middle East Economic Digest, Quarterly 
Economic Review of Libya, Tunisia, Malta: Annual Supplement 1984, London, 1984. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Table 10. Major Army Equipment, 1986 


Estimated number 
in Inventory 

Country of 


T-54 (100mm gun) 

T-55 (100mm gun) 

T-62 (115mm gun) 

T-72 (120mm gun) 

Armored Vehicles 

BRDM-2 reconnaissance 

BMP personnel carrier 

BTR-50/-60 personnel carrier 

OT-62/-64 personnel carrier 

EE-9 reconnaissance 

EE- 11 personnel carrier 

Howitzers and Guns 

D-74 122mm field gun 

M-46 130mm field gun 

M-101 105mm howitzer 

M-1938, D-30 122mm howitzer 

M-1974 122mm howitzer, self-propelled 
M-1973 152mm howitzer, self-propelled 
Palmaris 155mm howitzer, self-propelled 






Soviet Union 


Soviet Union 

United States 
Soviet Union 





81mm, 120mm, 160mm, 240mm 
Multiple Rocket Launchers 

BM-21/RM-70 122mm 

M-51 130mm 

Surface-to-Surface Missiles 

FROG- 7 


Antitank Guided Missiles 



AT-3 Sagger 

Surface-to-Air Missiles 



n.a. — not available. 

Source: Based on information from International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Mili- 
tary Balance, 1986-1987, London, 1986, 103. 






Soviet Union 


Soviet Union 




Table 11. Major Navy Equipment, 1986 

Number in Country of 

Type Inventory Origin 


Vosper with Otomat and Aspide missiles ... 1 Britain 

Koni-class with SS-N-2C missiles 1 Soviet Union 


Foxtrot class 6 -do- 

Mala class submersible 2 Yugoslavia 


Wadi/ Assad class with Otomat missiles 4 Italy 

Nanuchka II with SS-N-2C missiles 3 Soviet Union 

Fast- Attack Craft 

La Combattante II with Otomat missiles ... 9 France 

Osa II with Styx missiles 12 Soviet Union 

Susah class 3 Britain 

Coastal Patrol Boats 

Gharyan and Benina classes 8 -do- 

Landing Ships 

PS- 700 2 France 

Polnochniy 3 Poland 


Natya 7 Soviet Union 

Source: Based on information from International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Mili- 
tary Balance, 1986-1987, London, 1986, 103. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Table 12. Major Air Force Equipment, 1986 

Number in 

Country of 





Tu-22 Blinder 


Soviet Union 




MiG-23 Flogger 


Soviet Union 

MiG-25 Foxbat 



Ground Attack 





MiG-23 Flogger 


Soviet Union 

Su-20/-22 Fitter 







An-26 Curl 


Soviet Union 

11-76 Candid 



C-130H Hercules 


United States 

Boeing 707 










Mi-24 Hind 

, . 30 

Soviet Union 



SA-321 Super Frelon 



CH-47C Chinook 


United States 

Mi-8 Hip 


Soviet Union 




SA-316B Alouette III 







MiG-25 Foxbat 


Soviet Union 

MiG-23 Flogger 



G-2 Galeb 



L-39 Albatros 






CM- 170 Magister 



Source: Based on information from International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Mili- 
tary Balance, 1986-1987, London, 1986, 103-104. 



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Libya: A Country Study 

Chapter 2 

Anderson, Lisa. "Assessing Libya's Qaddafi," Current History , 84, 

No. 502, May 1985, 197-200. 
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No. 2, Spring 1986, 225-37. 
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(ed.), Voices of Resurgent Islam. New York: Oxford University 

Press, 1983. 

Attir, Mustafa O. "Ideology, Value Changes, and Women's Social 
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of Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985. 

Birks, Stace, and Clive Sinclair. "Libya: Problems of a Rentier 
State." Pages 241-75 in Richard Lawless and Allan Findlay 
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New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984. 

Camps, Gabriel. Berber es aux marges deVhistoire. Barcelona: Editions 
des Hesperides, 1980. 

Cooley, John K. Libyan Sandstorm. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and 
Winston, 1982. 

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NATO's Sixteen Nations, December 1986-January 1987, 24-31. 

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Dunton, Chris. "Gaddafi's Libya," West Africa [London], No. 
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Quarterly Economic Review of Libya, No. 1, London: Econ- 
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Quarterly Economic Review of Libya, No. 1, London: Econ- 
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McLachlan (eds.), Social and Economic Development of Libya. 

Wisbech, United Kingdom: Middle East and North African 

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Fawat, Ibrahim. "Libya: Economic Crisis, Political Expulsions," 

AfricAsia, No. 22, October 1985, 32-43. 
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No. 4, July-August 1986, 72-78. 
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Populist Revolution." Pages 177-222 in I. William Zartman 

(ed.), Political Elites in Arab North Africa. New York: Longman, 


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mer 1982, 319-35. 


Libya: A Country Study 

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Arab World. New York: Praeger, 1983. 

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Report, November-December 1986, 30-35, 43. 

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(Various issues of the following publications were also used in the 
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and Cultural Series [Exeter, United Kingdom]; Christian Science Mon- 
itor; Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Mid- 
dle East and Africa; Jamahiriya Review [London]; Joint Publications 



Research Service, Near East-South Asia Report; Manchester Guard- 
ian Weekly [Manchester] ; Marches tropicaux et mediterraneens [Paris] ; 
Middle East Economic Digest [London]; Middle East Education and 
Training [London]; New York Times; Washington Post.) 

Chapter 3 

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and Political Adjustments," Journal of Middle East Studies, 15, 
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Libya: A Country Study 

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Libya: A Country Study 

Economist [Beirut]; Business Week; Central Intelligence Agency, 
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York Times; and Washington Post.) 



Chapter 5 

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Winston, 1982. 

The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 

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World Armies. (2d ed.) Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. 

Esposito, John L. (ed.). Voices of Resurgent Islam. New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1983. 

Fisher, W. B. "Libya." Pages 596-625 in The Middle East and North 
Africa, 1987. London: Europa Publications, 1986. 

"Gaddafi and Africa," Africa, an International Business, Economic, 
and Political Monthly [London], No. 115, March 1981, 12-17. 

Gutteridge, William (ed.). Libya: Still a Threat to Western Interests? 
(Conflict Studies No. 160), London: Institute for the Study of 
Conflict, 1984. 

Habib, Henry. "Changing Patterns in Libyan Foreign Policy," 
Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies, No. 2, Winter 1986, 

Hajjar, Sami. "The Jamahiriya Experiment in Libya: Qadhafi and 
Rousseau," Journal of Modern African Studies [Cambridge], 18, 
No. 2, June 1980, 181-200. 

Haley, P. Edward. Qaddafi and the United States Since 1969. New York: 
Praeger, 1984. 

Harris, Lillian Craig. "America's Libya Policy Has Failed," Middle 
East International [London], No. 285, October 10, 1986, 14-15. 

. Libya: Qadhafi 's Revolution and the Modern State. Boulder, 

Colorado: Westview Press, 1986. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Heller, Mark (ed.). The Middle East Military Balance, 1983. Boul- 
der, Colorado: Westview Press, 1983. 

Henderson, George. "The Abu Nidal Connection," Middle East 
International [London], No. 266, January 10, 1986, 6-7. 

. ' ' Libya and the Arabs, ' ' Middle East International [London] , 

No. 274, May 2, 1986, 7-9. 

"Redefining the Revolution," Africa Report [London], 29, 

No. 6, November-December 1984, 36-42. 

Hersh, Seymour M. "Target Qaddafi," New York Times Magazine, 
February 22, 1987, 17-26. 

Hinnebusch, Raymond A. "Libya: Personalistic Leadership of a 
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Hirst, David. "Gadafy's Dangerous Game of People Versus the 
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Jane's, 1986. 

Jane's Fighting Ships, 1986-87. (Ed., John Moore.) New York: 
Jane's, 1986. 

Lemarchand, Rene. "Chad, The Road to Partition," Current History 
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Lesch, Ann Mosely. "A View from Khartoum," Foreign Affairs, 
Spring 1987, 807-26. 

"Libya." Pages 441-46 in Gregory R. Copley (ed.), Defense and 
Foreign Affairs Handbook, 1986. Washington: Perth, 1986. 

Lilian, Frederick, Jr. "The US Raid of Libya — and Nato," Orbis, 
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MacDougall, Alan Scott. "Libya." Pages 127-46 in Richard A. 
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Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. "Islamic Resurgence or New Prophet- 
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the United States Congress, 99th, 2d Session, Senate Commit- 
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Libya: A Country Study 

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(Various issues of the following publications were also used in 
preparing this chapter: Africa Research Bulletin [Exeter, United 
Kingdom], Arab Report and Record [London]; Foreign Broadcast 
Information Service, Daily Report, Middle East and North Africa; 
Joint Publications Research Service, Near East/South Asia Report; 
Keesing's Contemporary Archives [Edinburgh]; Middle East Economic 
Digest [London]; New York Times, and Washington Post.) 



al — Arabic definite article "the"; connotes family or group to which 
an individual belongs or region of origin. 

amir — Title of an independent chieftain. Literally, "commander." 
Also seen as emir. 

Aouzou Strip — A rectangle of territory in northern Chad 100 kilo- 
meters wide and 1,000 kilometers long, paralleling Libya's 
southern border. Libya first occupied the strip in 1975 and 
annexed it in 1976. It is said to contain valuable minerals, 
including uranium. 

ASU — Arab Socialist Union. The mass organization created in 1971 
to provide a framework for popular participation and represen- 
tation within the political system. Reorganized in 1975 to in- 
clude the local-level Basic People's Congresses (BPCs) and the 
intermediate-level Municipal Popular Congresses (MPCs), both 
of which send delegates to the national General People's Con- 
gress (GPC — q. v.); organization was disbanded in January 
1976. Not to be confused with the Egyptian political organiza- 
tion of the same name. 

bani — Arabic for a tribe, people, or nation; plural of ibn, son of 
a person 

baraka — Quality of blessedness or grace found characteristically in 
marabouts (q.v.) and other divinely favored persons. Also, 
charisma that endows the blessed with a special capacity to rule. 

barrels per day — Production of crude oil and petroleum products 
is frequently measured in barrels per day and often abbrevi- 
ated bpd or bd. A barrel is a volume measure of 42 United 
States gallons. Conversion of barrels to tons depends on the 
density of the specific product. About 7.3 barrels of average 
crude oil weigh one ton. Light products such as gasoline and 
kerosene would average close to eight barrels per ton. 

Baathist — a member of the Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) 
Party, a pan-Arab party established in Damascus in the 1940s 
by Michel Aflaq and Salah ad Din al Bitar. 

caliph — In Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad's successor 
as spiritual and temporal leader of the Islamic community. 
Literally, "successor." 

Cultural Revolution — The program proclaimed by Muammar al 
Qadhafi on April 15, 1973. Comprising five "points" or poli- 
cies, it aimed at effacing foreign cultural influence and reviv- 
ing Libya's Arab and Islamic heritage. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Cyrenaica — Largest of Libya's three historic regions, occupying 
the eastern half of the country. Name derived from the ancient 
Greek city-state, Cyrene; in Arabic known as Barqu. 

dey — Originally a junior officer commanding a company of janis- 
saries (q.v.). After 1611 the title of the head of government in 
Tripolitania (q.v.). Literally, "maternal uncle." 

divan — Council of senior military officers during the Ottoman 

Fezzan — One of Libya's three historic regions, located in the south- 
western part of the country. 

Free Officers Movement — Secret organization of junior Libyan 
army officers and enlisted men responsible for carrying out the 
September 1, 1969, coup against the monarchy. 

FROLINAT — Front de Liberation Nationale du Tchad (Front for 
the National Liberation of Chad). Muslim insurgent movement 
supported by Libya. 

FY — fiscal year. Since 1974 the calendar year; before that date the 
fiscal year commenced on April 1. 

GDP — Gross Domestic Product. A value measure of the flow of 
domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a 
period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods 
for final consumption and investment are included because the 
values of primary and intermediate production are assumed 
to be included in final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated 
and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and 
subsidies are included; when these have been eliminated, the 
result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deduc- 
tions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. 
See also GNP. 

General People's Committee — Name given the cabinet (formerly 
the Council of Ministers) in March 1977. 

GNP — Gross National Product. The gross domestic product (q.v.) 
plus net income or loss stemming from transactions with for- 
eign countries. GNP is the broadest measurement of the out- 
put of goods and services by an economy. It can be calculated 
at market prices, which include indirect taxes and subsidies. 
Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, 
GNP is often calculated at factor cost by removing indirect taxes 
and subsidies. 

GPC — General People's Congress. Body combining executive and 
legislative functions that became the formal supreme organ of 
government in March 1977. 

The Green Book — Muammar al Qadhafi's ideological testament, con- 
taining his political, economic, and social thought, revolutionary 



precepts, and definition of "Arab socialism." The first volume 
was published in 1975, the second in 1977, and the third in 

habus — Islamic religious endowment or trust (usually real estate) 
used to support mosques, schools, and charitable works. Some- 
times seen as habous or hubus; occurs as waqf outside the Maghrib 

hadith — Literally, "speech, prophetic tradition." Islamic writ- 
ings containing the sayings and teachings of the Prophet 
Muhammad as recalled by those who knew him during his life. 

ibn — Literally, "son of"; used before or as part of proper name 
to indicate patrilineal descent. Also seen as bin or ben. 

imam — In general, an Islamic leader who is a recognized author- 
ity on Islamic theology and law; also the prayer leader of a 
mosque. The term is used to designate the leader of the Islamic 
community in a particular locale. 

IMF — International Monetary Fund. Established along with the 
World Bank (q. v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency 
affiliated with the United Nations and is responsible for stabiliz- 
ing international exchange rates and payments. The main bus- 
iness of the IMF is the provision of loans to its members 
(including industrialized and developing countries) when they 
experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans fre- 
quently carry conditions that require substantial internal eco- 
nomic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are 
developing countries. 

jamahiriya — Newly coined Arabic word having no official transla- 
tion but unofficially translated to mean "state of the masses," 
"people's authority," or "people's power." On March 2, 1977, 
Libya officially became the Socialist People's Libyan Arab 

janissaries — Members of an elite Ottoman military corps; in 
Tripolitania (q.v.), recruited from among Turkish peasants 
committed to a life of service. From the Turkish yeniceri, or "new 

jihad — According to Islamic doctrine, the permanent struggle to 
establish the law of God on earth, often interpreted to mean 
"holy war." 

khouloughlis — In Tripolitania (q.v.), a distinct caste of mixed Tur- 
kish and Arab parentage. Literally, "sons of servants" or "sons 
of slaves." Adjectival form is khoulougli. Various translitera- 
tions are found. 

LD — Libyan dinar. Unit of currency since September 1, 1971, 
replacing the Libyan pound. In mid- 1987 LD1 was valued at 
US$3.16; reciprocal exchange rate approximately LD0.32 per 


Libya: A Country Study 

US$1. The rate of exchange has been stable since February 
1973. The Libyan dinar is divided into 1,000 dirhams. 

Maghrib — The western Islamic world (northwest Africa); distin- 
guished from the Mashriq (q.v.), or eastern Islamic world 
(the Middle East). Traditionally includes Morocco, Algeria, 
Tunisia, and Tripolitania (q.v.). Literally, "the time or place 
of the sunset — the west." For its Arab conquerors, the region 
was the "island of the west" (jazirat al maghrjib), the land between 
the "sea of sand" (Sahara) and the Mediterranean Sea. Also 
transliterated as Maghreb. 

Mahdi — According to Islamic tradition, the messianic guide who 
will rise up to lead the faithful to salvation in anticipation of 
the last day. Historically a religious leader who is recognized 
as the Mahdi of tradition by his followers and assumes a mes- 
sianic role in order to unify Islam and institute a reign of vir- 
tue. Literally, the "enlightened" or "divinely guided one." 

marabout — In North Africa a holy man and teacher venerated 
locally and believed to be touched by divine grace, or baraka 
(q.v.), which sometimes conferred the right to rule as well. Fre- 
quently called upon to arbitrate tribal disputes, the marabout 
was not usually a member of the ulama (q.v.). Transliteration 
of al murabitun (those who have made a religious retreat). 

Mashriq — Eastern Islamic world, as distinct from the Maghrib 
(q.v.). Also transliterated as Machrek. 

Mauretania — Classical name for ancient Berber kingdom in north- 
west Africa; name also of Roman province that succeeded it. 
Cited in some sources as Mauritania but not to be confused 
with the modern Islamic Republic of Mauritania. 

medina — Arabic for town or city; used in North Africa to refer to 
the old center part of a city. 

Moor — In Tripolitania (q.v.), an urban Arab during the dynastic 
and Ottoman periods. The term Arab was reserved specifically 
for the beduins. 

Moorish — Refers specifically to the cultural attributes common to 

Muslim Spain and the Maghrib after the twelfth century, 
moriscos — Spanish Muslims. 

muhafazaat (sing., muhafazah) — Governorates into which Libya's 
three traditional regions were divided in 1 963 . Each was headed 
by a governor (muhafiz). The muhafazaat were abolished in 1975. 

Muslim Brotherhood — A fundamentalist Sunni organization that 
has challenged secular governments, particularly in Egypt and 
Syria. Historically, it has used forced in pursuing Islamization 
but in the mid-1980s it participated in the political process in 



OAPEC — Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. 
Coordinates petroleum policies of major oil-producing Arab 
states. In early 1987 membership included Algeria, Bahrain, 
Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and 
the United Arab Emirates. 

OAU — Organization of African Unity. As of 1987, Libya was one 
of many African states belonging to the organization. 

OPEC — Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Coor- 
dinates petroleum policies of thirteen major oil-producing coun- 
tries. In early 1987 members included Algeria, Ecuador, 
Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, 
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. 

pasha — Ottoman provincial governor or military commander. In 
Tripolitania (q.v.), the title of the regent representing the sul- 
tan (q.v.). 

POLISARIO — Frente Popular por la Liberation de Saguia el 
Hamra y Rio de Oro (Popular Front for the Liberation of 
Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro). Western Sahara indepen- 
dence movement. 

qadi (pi., qadis) — Islamic judge who presides over sharia (q.v.) 

Quran — Islamic scriptures believed by Muslims to be God's 
(Allah's) revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. Derived from 
the Arabic verb qaraa (to recite or to read). Commonly written 
as Koran. 

RCC — Revolutionary Command Council. Supreme organ of the 
revolutionary regime from September 1969 to 1977. 

Revolutionary Committees — Unofficial watchdog organizations 
whose members tended to be zealots devoted to Muammar al 
Qadhafi and his teachings. First instituted in November 1977 
to supervise the Basic People's Congresses and to fight 
bureaucracy, they have steadily grown more powerful. For 
example, their members play a large role in selecting delegates 
to the GPC (q.v.). 

shahadah— Literally, "testimony." Islamic profession of faith: 
"There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is His 

sharia — Traditional code of Islamic law, both civil and criminal, 
based in part on the Quran (q. v.). Also drawn from the hadith 
(q.v.); the consensus of Islamic belief (ijma; i.e., consensus of 
the authorities on a legal question); and analogy (qiyas; i.e., 
an elaboration of the intent of law). 

shaykh — Tribal leader; also seen as sheik or sheikh. 


Libya: A Country Study 

Shia — The smaller of the two great divisions of Islam. Literally, 
"party" from Shiat Ali (Party of Ali). Adherents are referred 
to as Shias; adjectival form is Shia. According to the Shias, 
Islamic leadership should belong to a descendant of the House 
of Ali, not an elected caliph (q.v.) 

shurfa (sing., sharif) — In strict usage, descendants of the Prophet 
Muhammad through his daughter, Fatima; broadly, persons 
or groups having noble status. Also transliterated as ashraf. Sin- 
gular form is used as a title. 

the Sudan — Geographical region stretching across Africa from Cape 
Verde on the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea between 8° and 
16° north latitude; characterized by savanna and semiarid 
steppe. Term derived from Arabic bilad as sudan (literally, 
"country of the blacks"). Not to be confused with the Repub- 
lic of Sudan. 

sultan — Title of the Almoravid, Hafsid, and Ottoman overlords 

of Libya. Secular title for a high Muslim ruler (see also caliph), 
sunna — Body of customs and practices based on the Prophet 

Muhammad's words and deeds as found in the Quran (q.v.) 

and the hadith (q.v.), which serve as guides to proper behavior 

for Muslims. 

Sunni — The larger of the two great divisions of Islam. The Sunni 
consider themselves the orthodox adherents of the sunna (q.v.). 

suq — Traditional North African bazaarlike open-air market. 

Third Universal Theory — Major tenet of Muammar al Qadhafi's 
revolutionary ideology, which purports to offer nonaligned 
states what is regarded as the Third World political, economic, 
and social alternatives to Western capitalism and East Euro- 
pean communism. Frequently seen as the Third International 
Theory, or the Third Theory. 

Tripolitania — Most populous of Libya's three historic regions, situ- 
ated in the northwestern part of the country. Name derived 
from Tripolis (Three Cities). 

ulama — Collective term for Muslim religious scholars (sing., alim) 
learned in the Quran (q. v. ) and responsible for interpreting and 
elaborating on the sharia (q. v. ). Derived from Arabic verb alama 
(to know). 

World Bank — Informal name used to designate a group of three 
affiliated international institutions: the International Bank for 
Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International 
Development Association (IDA), and the International Finance 
Corporation (IFC). The IBRD, established in 1945, has the 
primary purpose of providing loans to developing countries for 
productive projects. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund but 



administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 to 
furnish credits to the poorest devloping countries on much easier 
terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, 
founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD 
through loans and assistance designed specifically to encourage 
the growth of productive private enterprises in the less devel- 
oped countries. The president and certain senior officers of the 
IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC. The three institu- 
tions are owned by the governments of the countries that sub- 
scribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank group, 
member states must first belong to the International Mone- 
tary Fund (IMF — q. v.). 
zawiya (pi. zawaayad) — In North Africa, a lodge containing mosque 
and quarters for the brothers of a religious order. 



Abbasid dynasty, 13 

Abdal Mumin, 15 

Abu Nidal, 253, 254, 282 

Abu Nidal Organization, 282-84 

Abu Simbel airfield, 200 

ACDA. See United States Arms Control 

and Disarmament Agency 
Addis Ababa, 232 
Al Adem Air Base, 239 
Administrative Contracts Regulations, 


Aeritalia, 278 

Aero L-39 Albatros, 263 

Aflaq, Michel, 210 

Africa, 5, 106, 230, 240, 247, 250, 273, 

Al Agheila, 33 
Aghlab, Ibrahim ibn, 13 
Aghlabid amirs, 13 
Agila, Yusuf, 204 

AGIP. See Azienda Generale Italiana 

agriculture, 51, 141-43; crops, 146; 
dairies, 147; exports, 156; investment 
in, 126; irrigation, xxvi, 144, 145-46; 
livestock, 146-47; resources, 142; share 
of gross domestic product, 120-21 

Ahmad, Musa, 43, 45 

aid (Libyan) to other countries, 159-60 

aircraft, MiG fighter planes, 239, 262, 
275; Mirage aircraft, 239, 242, 250, 

262, 274, 278; SF-260 light aircraft, 
278; SF-260 planes, 263; SF-260 train- 
ing planes, 280; Su-22 fighters, 229, 
250, 252, 263; Tu-22 bombers, 262, 

263, 275, 279; Tu-26 bombers, 250; 
Tucano trainer aircraft, 278 

air force, xix, 261-63; development of, 
242; equipment, 262; and foreign aid, 
262-63; manpower, 262; performance, 
263; training, 263 

airports, xvii, 168 

Ajdabiya, 145 

Al Alamein, xxiii, 33 

Alexander the Great, 7 

Alexandria, 31, 260 

Algeria, 21, 22, 54, 65, 219; and Arab 
unity, 54; Arabization, 74; and the 

economy, 40, 119, 122, 136; and Fez- 
zan border, 68; and petroleum, 128, 
130; proposed merger with, 218-19; re- 
lations with, 216, 222, 247 

Algerian Sahara, 34 

Algiers, 18, 20, 226 

Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad), 

Ali Benghul, 20 

Ali II, 20 

Allah (God), 10, 99, 100 

Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, 34 

Allied Powers, 25, 27, 31 

Almohads, 15 

Almoravids, 15 

Amerada Petroleum Company, 132 
America, 255 

Amin, Idi, 56, 223-24, 247 
amirs, 13 

Amnesty International, 200, 288-89 
Andalusia (Muslim Spain), 12, 15 
Anderson, Lisa, 212 
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 30 
Angola, 222, 223, 232, 233 
Aouzou Strip: and Chadian war, xv, 55, 

56, 224-25, 251; and uranium deposits, 

141, 234, 248-51 
Apollonia, 7 
aquifers, 69, 126 

Arab-African Development Bank, 234 
Arab culture, 248 

Arab Islamic Republic (proposed), 221 
Arab-Israeli dispute, 43, 46, 50, 52, 53, 

56, 106, 174, 217, 231, 232, 240, 246, 

247, 274, 282 
Arab League. See League of Arab States 
"Arab Nation," 52 

Arab nationalism, 40, 41, 44, 206, 210; 

and Arabic language, 80 
Arab Satellite (ARABSAT), 169 
Arab Socialist Union (ASU), xviii, 46, 
174, 179, 181-83, 191, 209; Basic 
Committee, 181; Basic Conference, 
181; election of delegates, 186; election 
of members, 183; Governorate Confer- 
ence, 181-82; and The Green Book, 212; 
National Congress (1972), 182, 186-87, 
208; National Congress (1974), 185, 


Libya: A Country Study 

186-87; National Congress (1976), 197, 
269; reorganization, 186-87, 212; and 
social change, 87-88 

Arab unity, xxiv-xxv, xxvi, 43, 52-55, 
57, 174, 208, 210, 222, 245; and the 
Maghrib, 220-21; pursuit of, by 
Muammar al Qadhafi, 205, 208, 
217-19; and tribal differences, 46; and 
united military force, 268-69; and War 
of June 1967, 44-45 

Arabia, 14, 15, 99 

Arabian Peninsula, 10, 130 

Arabization, 3-4, 15, 68, 74; of educa- 
tion, 115; linguistic, 81 

Arabs: arrival of, in North Africa, 73-75; 
conquest of North Africa, xxiii, 10-12 

ARABSAT. See Arab Satellite 

Arafat, Yasir, 284 

Argentina, 234 

armed forces {see also air force, army, 
navy, People's Militia), xix, 43, 
239-72; and Arab-Israeli dispute, 240; 
budget, xx, 257, 269-73; compulsory 
military training, xix; conscription, 
243, 263-64; development of, 241-43; 
distrust of, 256-57; equipment acqui- 
sition, xix-xx, 230, 239-40, 244, 
257-58, 261-62, 276-78; execution of 
dissidents in, 50; expansion of, 242-43, 

246- 47; expenditures as percentage of 
gross national product, 273; foreign 
bases in Libya, 226, 230, 239-40 {see 
also Britain, United States); leadership, 
243-46, 255-56; modernization, 245; 
morale, 256; paramilitary forces, 
268-69; performance in combat, 

247- 48; rank structure, 269; and social 
mobility, 4; traditional mission, 
246-47; uniforms, 269; and women, 
246, 266-68 

Armed Forces of the North (FAN), 250 

Armenia, 74 

arms production, 280-81 

army, xix, xxvii, 46, 49, 191, 258-59; 
bases, 259; deficiencies, 258-59; equip- 
ment, 258; foreign advisers, 259; and 
social mobility, 86-87; training, 259 

Arsinoe, 7 

Artemis-30 antiaircraft gun, 278 
As, Umar ibn al, 11 
Asia, 282 

Assad, Hafiz al, 52, 53, 55, 218 
assassinations, xxvii, 197, 203, 204-5, 281 

ASU. See Arab Socialist Union 
Atatiirk (Mustafa Kemal), 27 
Athens, 205 

Atlantic Ocean, 11, 12, 169 

Atoll missile, 253 

Auchinleck, Claude, 33 

Austria, 277, 278 

aviation, 168 

Awjilah, 75 

Axis forces, 33, 241 

Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli 

(AGIP), 130 
Aziza, 26 
Al Aziziyah, 254 
Azzam, Abdar Rahman, 26 

Baathists, 204, 210, 288; slogan of, 206 
Bab al Aziziyah, 203 
Baghdad, 13 

Bakkush, Abdul Hamid, 203-4 

Balbo, Italo, 30 

Balkans, 24 

Banco di Roma, 161 

Banco di Sicilia, 161 

Bangladesh, 282 

Bani Hilal, 14-15, 74 

Bani Khattab, 13, 17 

Bani Salim, 14-15, 74 

Bani Walid, 113 

banks, 160-62; commercial, 161; credit 
policy, 162; and interest on loans, 162; 
nationalization of, 161 

baraka, 22, 23, 102-3 

Baraqah, 16 

barbari, 76 

Barbarossa (Khair ad Din), 18 

Barce (Al Marj), 7, 11 

Barrani, Ahmad, 205 

Baruni, Suleiman, 25, 26, 27 

Basic People's Congress (BPC), 48, 174, 

Al Bayda, 22, 23, 113 

beduin tribes, xxiii, 13, 14-15, 16, 26, 30, 
74, 113; conflicts among, 189; distinc- 
tion between, 75; migration to Cyrenai- 
ca and Tripolitania, 74; pride in tribal 
lineage, 83-84; resistance of, to Italian 
rule, 24-25 

Beijing (formerly Peking), 234 

Beirut, 253 

Belgium, 279 

Belgonucleaire, 279 



Belisarius, 10 

Bella, Ahmed Ben, 282 

Benghazi, 7, 24, 29, 44, 96, 203, 252; air- 
port at, 168; and armed forces, 259, 
260, 274-75; as capital, 38, 175; and 
Coup of September 1, 1969, 42; courts, 
194; and Great Man-Made River, 145; 
housing, 110; and Italian rule, 27, 29; 
and manufacturing, 136; and monar- 
chy, 38; and Ottoman rule, 18; popu- 
lation, 42; ports, 165; school 
enrollment, 113; and urbanization, 71; 
U.S. air strike on, 229, 254-55; and 
War of June 1967, 40 

Benin, 280 

Benina airfield, 255 

Berbers, xvi, 3, 6, 9, 14, 75-77; ancient 
writing, 8; and Islam, 12-13, 74, 99, 
102; Kutama, 14; language, 75-76; ori- 
gin of, 4-5; "Punicized," 8; resistance 
of, to Arabs, 13; tribal dynasties, 15 

Berenice, 7 

Berlin, xxvii, 229, 254 
Bevin, Ernest, 35 
Bevin-Sforza plan, 35 
Big Four, 35 
Birak, 113 

black Africans, xvi, 78 
Boeing, 168 
Boeing 727s, 277 
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 20 
Bornu, 17 
Botswana, 232 

Bourguiba, Habib, 54, 218, 220-21, 281 

Bouri field, 130, 133 

BPC. See Basic People's Congress 

Brazil, as source of military equipment, 
259, 274, 277, 278 

Brega Company, 131 

Britain, 20, 30, 134, 168, 204; adminis- 
tration, xxiv, 33-34; aid from, 156; and 
air defense project, 242; Army of the 
Nile, 33; and Council of Ten, 36; and 
development of the armed forces, 
241-42; Eighth Army, 33; evacuation 
of military bases, 40, 274, 275; gross 
national product, 149; and indepen- 
dence, 31-32; military advisers, 239; 
and military aid, 273; military bases, 
xxiv, 38, 239, 243, 245, 273; policy of 
refusing to ship arms to Libya, xx, 277; 
protests against terrorism, 57; relations 
with, 203, 226, 227-28; Royal Military 

Academy, 44; as source of military 
equipment, 259, 261, 278; sterling bloc, 
160; and United Nations, 35 
British Petroleum, 50-51, 131, 227 
British Petroleum-Bunker Hunt Sarir 
field, 131 

budget, 152-55; administrative, 152-54; 

allocations, 154; development of, 

152-54; special, 152-53 
Bunker Hunt, 131 
Al Burkan (The Volcano), 204 
Burkina Faso, 282 
Byzantine Empire, 10, 11, 12, 13 

C-130 Lockheed cargo planes, 277 
Caesar, Julius, 5 
Cairo, 14, 53, 203, 204 
calendar, Gregorian, 152; Muslim, alter- 
ation of, 202 
caliphate, 12 
Cambyses, 7 

Camp David accords, 224, 231 
Canada, policy of refusing to ship arms 

to Libya, xx, 277 
Cape of Good Hope, 130 
capitalism, 209 
Caravelle, 168 
Carter, Jimmy, 229 
Carthage, xxiii, 5, 8, 10, 11 
Cascavel armored vehicles, 278 
Castro, Fidel, 226 

Catania: telecommunications link, 169 
Central Bank of Libya, 161, 179; assets 
in United States, 158; balance-of- 
payments statement, 156; credit policy, 
158; foreign exchange controls, 158; 
population estimate, 70; statistics on 
agicultural production, 146 
Chad, xxv, 34, 57, 189, 233, 247, 256, 
258, 259, 268, 278, 282; border, 30, 
168; Chadian war, xxvii, 55-56, 200, 
224-26, 248, 263, 276; and Fezzan 
border, 68; Libyan aid to, 160; min- 
eral deposits in Aouzou Strip, 141, 
234, 248-51; proposed merger with, 
218; and Sahara Desert, 65; Tebu in, 

Chadian war, 55, 218, 227 
Chamber of Deputies, 38, 175 
Charles V, 18 

China, xix-xx, 273; and nuclear technol- 
ogy, 279; Red Guards, 191 


Libya: A Country Study 

Chinese Cultural Revolution, 191, 211, 

Christianity, 9-10, 13, 15, 103, 106; and 
Islam, 106; Protestantism, 201 

citizenship, 93 

Civil Aviation Institute, 168 

climate, xvi, 68-69 

Colombia, 282 

colonialism, xxvi, 231, 232 

Combattante fast-attack craft, 278 

communications, xvii-xviii, 168-69; 
radio, 169; telephone system, 168-69 

communism, xxvi, xxvii, 43, 199, 209, 
210, 230 

Compulsory Military Service Statute of 
1978, xix, 264 

constitution, 37-38, 175-76, 199 

Constitution of October 1951, 37-38 

Constitutional Proclamation of December 
11, 1969, 96, 176, 205, 206 

construction industry, 136, 139-40 

Continental Oil Company, 132 

Coptic Church, 10, 12 

Coral Sea, 255 

corruption, 285 

Corsair aircraft, 253 

Council of Ministers, xxv; and monarchy, 
37, 175, 180; replacement of, by Gen- 
eral People's Congress, 48, 179; and 
Revolutionary government, 43, 
177-78, 183 

Council of State, 196 

Council of Ten, 36 

Coup of September 1, 1969, 42-44, 189, 
242; and petroleum industry, 130 

courts, 194-97; appeals courts, 194; 
courts of first instance, 194; military 
courts, 196-97; people's court, 196-97; 
religious court, 192-95; revolutionary 
courts, 197; secular courts, 192; sum- 
mary courts, 194; Supreme Court, 

Crete, 6, 9, 74 

Crotale missiles, 262 

Cuba, 110, 203 

cult of saints, 103 

Cultural Revolution of 1973, 47-50, 
173, 183-86, 191, 199, 210-12; five 
points of, 211; proclamation of, 211; 
and sharia, 201-2; and social change, 

currency, xvii, 160-61 
Cyprus, 205, 220 

Cyrenaica, xxiii, 3, 19, 245; ancient pe- 
riod, 6-7; and the armed forces, 
241-42; Berbers in, 77; British ad- 
ministration of, 33-34; conquest of, by 
Arabs, 11-12; construction materials, 
136; and Coup of September 1, 1969, 
42; dialects, 80; geography, 65-66; 
Hilalian impact on, 15; and Italian 
rule, 24-29; Jews in, 78; medieval, 
16-17; and national unity, 40, 41; and 
Ottoman rule, 19, 21; petroleum 
deposits in, 39; population, 71; Roman 
Empire, 8-9; and Sanusi order, 22, 23, 
103-4; and United Nations, 34-37; 
during World War II, 32-33 

Cyrenaican Defense Force, 242, 243 

Cyrenaics, 7 

Cyrene, 6-7 

Czechoslovakia, 230; as source of military 
equipment, 263, 273 

Damascus, 13 
Dar al Islam, 13 
Darfur, 281 

Darnah, 24, 29, 42, 259, 260 
Dassault, 263, 278 

Ad Dawah (Islamic Call Society), 106 

de Gaulle, Charles, 227 

Decision on the Protection of the Revo- 
lution, 176-77, 196, 199 

Declaration of the Establishment of the 
People's Authority, 47, 177, 178-79 

Delphi, 6 

democracy, 212-13 
Denali, Gibril, 205 
dey, 18-19 
Dhahab, Sawar, 224 
Diocletian, Emperor, 9, 29 
direct democracy, 190 
Divan, 18 
divorce, 92, 93 
domestic trade, 163-64 
Draughut Pasha, 18 
drought, 69 

East-West dichotomy, 174 

Eastern Europe, xvi, 46, 234; medical 
personnel, 108; military advisers, 230; 
military training, 275-76; relations 
with, 230-31; as source of military 
equipment, xxvii, 178-79, 240 



Eastern Libya. See Cyrenaica 
ecology, 145 

economy, xvii, 49, 119-69; and agricul- 
ture, 141-43; balance of payments, 
156-58; and decline in petroleum 
revenues, 119-20, 123, 127; demone- 
tization, 126; development of, 
119-20; development of petroleum 
sector, 128-29; foreign exchange, 
138-39, 158; foreign exchange 
reserves, 156-57; foreign investment 
in, 155, 158-59; government restric- 
tions on private sector, 124-28; 
government role in, 119-21, 123-28, 
141-42, 143; industrial development, 
128; investment abroad, 159; 
Libyanization of, 122-24; petroleum 
and nonpetroleum, 121-22; and 
petroleum reserves, 119; planned and 
actual expenditures, 154-55; public 
sector, 151-55; rate of inflation, 151; 
structure of, 120-23; wages, 150 

Eden, Anthony, 32 

education, 111-15, 216; Arabization of, 
115; budget, 112; compulsory, 111; En- 
glish language, 113, 115; enrollment, 
110-11; literacy rate, xvii, 111; primary 
and secondary, 112-13; Russian lan- 
guage, 115; and study abroad, 114; 
technical, 112; university, 111-15 

EE-9 armored cars, 268 

EF-111 electronic countermeasures air- 
craft, 254 

Egypt, xxvi, 7, 8, 25, 29, 31, 33, 35, 99, 
216, 230, 256, 268, 281, 282; air strikes 
against Libyan air base, 247-48; alli- 
ance with Sudan, 224; and Arab unity, 
52-55, 218; border, 259, 260, 262; and 
Council of Ten, 36; and Cyrenaican 
border, 68; defection of Libyan air force 
personnel to, 200; economy, 119; and 
exile groups, 203; exile of King Idris 
I in, 43; expulsion of Egyptian workers, 
73, 157; expulsion of Soviets from, 239; 
federation with, 52-54, 211; foreign 
workers in Libya, 97, 220; industrial 
policy, 136; medieval, 15, 16-17; Mid- 
dle Kingdom, 5; military advisers, 260; 
military aid from, 274-75; and Muslim 
Brotherhood, 106; Old Kingdom, 4-5; 
and Organization of Petroleum Export- 
ing Countries, 233; proposed merger 
with, xxvi, 218, 221; relations with, 

247; and Sarra Triangle, 30; and 
teacher training, 110; War of June 
1967, 40, 44-45, 239; and World War 
II, 32-33, 241 

El Al Airline, 282 

El Salvador, 282 

elections, 183, 184, 185 

electric power, 140-41 

elite: criteria for evaluating, 83; ethnic 
distinctions within, 89; and military 
leadership, 245; and monarchy, 85; and 
Revolutionary government, 87; as sub- 
national administrators, 180 

energy, 140-41 

ENI. See Ente Nazionale Idrocarbuno 
Ente Nazionale Idrocarbuno (ENI), 131 
Ente Nazionale Idrocarbuno-Azienda 

Generale Italiana Petroli (ENI-AGIP), 


Eritreans, 29 

Esso (later Exxon), xxiv, 39, 130 
Ethiopia, 31, 57, 224, 233, 280, 282 
ethnic groups, xvi, 73-79 
Euhesperides (later Berenice, present-day 

Benghazi), 7 
Europe, 19-20, 23, 24, 56, 79; influence 

of, on traditional life, 82; petroleum 

market, 128-30; and terrorism against 

travelers, 284 
European Economic Community, 226 
Europeanization, 74, 82 
exile groups, 49, 203 
exports, 163 

Exxon (formerly Esso), 132 

F-14 jets, 229, 263; Tomcat fighters, 252, 

F/A-18 Hornet strike aircraft, 255 
Fada, 225 

Fakini, Muhi ad Din, 39 
FAN. See Armed Forces of the North 
FAR. See Federation of Arab Republics 
Fatah Revolutionary Council (Abu Nidal 

Organization), 282-84 
Al Fatah University (formerly Tripoli 

University), 113, 200 
Fatima, 14 
Fatima, Queen, 46 
Fatimids, 13-14, 16 
Faya Largeau, 225, 250-51 
Fazi, Muhammad al, 17 
FB-111 bombers, 254, 255 


Libya: A Country Study 

Federal Republic of Germany (West Ger- 
many), 57, 205, 226; investment in 
housing, 110; and nuclear technology, 
279; policy of refusing to ship arms to 
Libya, xx, 277; as source of military 
equipment, 274; trade with, 163 

Federation of Arab Republics (FAR), 
52-53, 218 

Fezzan, xxiii, 3, 22, 45, 175, 245; ancient 
period, 7-8; conquest of, by Arabs, 1 1 ; 
and Coup of September 1, 1969, 42; di- 
alects, 80; and Great Man-Made 
River, 145; and Italian rule, 24, 25, 28, 
29; and Kharijites, 13; medieval, 
16-17; mineral resources in, 134-36; 
and national unity, 40; and Ottoman 
rule, 18, 21; petroleum in, 130; popu- 
lation, 71; and Sanusi order, 103; 
separateness of, 65-66; sub-Saharan 
Africans in, 78; and United Nations, 

Fiat Company, 227 

fikh, 202 

fishing, 147-48 

Five- Year Economic and Social Transfor- 
mation Plan (1976-80), 51, 126-27 

Five-Year Plan (1963-68), 39 

Five- Year Plan (1981-85), 126-27, 137 

floods, 69 

joggares, 8 

Fokker, 168 

foreign aid, 38-39, 123 

foreign relations, xviii, xviii-xix, 
174-75, 216-34; Arab countries, 
217-19; Algeria, 216, 222, 247; Brit- 
ain, 203, 226, 227-28; Eastern Eu- 
rope, 230-31; Egypt, 247; France, 38, 
226-27; Italy, 227; Maghrib, 220-23; 
Malta, 219-20; Mediterranean coun- 
tries, 219-20; Morocco, 216, 222-23; 
Soviet Union, 38, 46, 174, 222, 
230-31; sub-Saharan Africa, 223-24; 
Sudan, 224-25; Syria, 216; United 
Nations, 231-32; United States, 42, 
56-57, 174, 222, 226, 228-29; 
Western Europe, 57, 226-28 

foreign workers, 72-73, 97, 127-28, 220; 
in agriculture, 142; in construction, 
140; dependence on, 123; domestic, 97; 
expulsion of, 73, 128, 157; remittances 
by, and trade deficit, 157-58 

foreigners: and social change, 95 

forests, 148 

Foxbat, 275 

Foxtrot-class submarines, 260 

France, 20, 23, 253; and Chadian war, 
56, 225, 250, 251; and colonialism, 
23, 24; Conseil d'Etat, 196; and 
Council of Ten, 35; and Fezzan, 34; 
investment in housing, 110; military 
aid from, 275; policy of refusing to 
ship arms to Libya, xx, 277; relations 
with, 38, 226-27; as source of military 
equipment, xix, 240, 242, 243, 259, 
260, 261, 263, 273, 274, 278; telecom- 
munications link, 169; territorial con- 
cession from, to Italy, 30 

Free French forces, 34 

Free Officers Movement, xxiv, 42, 44, 86, 
189, 205, 242, 243 

"Freedom, Socialism, and Unity," 

Frente Popular por la Liberation de 

Saguia el Hamra y Rio de Oro — 

Polisario, 222, 223 
FROLINAT. See Front for the National 

Liberation of Chad 
Front for the National Liberation of Chad 

(FROLINAT), 248 
Fuhaymah, Muhammad Salim, 205 
Fundamental Law, 25 

Gafsa, 54, 221 
Gaiseric, 10 

Gamal Abdul Nasser Air Base (formerly 

Al Adem Air Base), 247, 262 
Gambia, 282 

Gar Yunis University (formerly Univer- 
sity of Libya at Benghazi), 113 

Garamentes, 7-8, 11 

Garang, John, 216, 224 

General Company for Distribution, Pub- 
lication, and Advertisement, 164 

General Consultative Council, 29 

General Corporation for Civil Works, 139 

General Corporation for Public Trans- 
port, 165 

General Corporation for the Construction 

and Maintenance of Roads, 139 
General Dairy and Dairy Products Com- 
pany, 147 
General Electric Organization, 140 
General Iron and Steel Corporation, 134 
General People's Committee, xviii, xxv, 
47-48, 49, 174, 179 



General People's Congress (GPC), xviii, 
xxv, 47, 48, 174, 246, 263; and the 
budget, 152-53; and conscription of 
women, 267; General Secretariat, xviii, 
47, 48, 174, 190, 244; and The Green 
Book, 212; and labor unions, 197; and 
legal codes, 104; and Muammar al 
Qadhafi, 192; and revolutionary com- 
mittees, 187; role of, in government, 
178-80; and Supreme Court justices, 
194-96; and training institutes, 113 

General Post, Telephone, and Telegraph 
Organization, 168 

Genoa, 278 

geography, xv-xvi, 64-68 
Germa, 8, 11 

German Democratic Republic (East Ger- 
many), 203, 230, 250 

Germany, 208; Afrika Korps, 33; and 
first Italo-Sanusi War, 25; World War 
II, 31, 33 

Ghadamis, 8; airport at, 168; sedimen- 
tation basin, 130 

Ghadamsi, Izzedin, 205 

Ghana, 280 

Gharyan region, 25 

Ghat, 34; airport at, 168 

GMMR. See Great Man-Made River 

Goukouni Oueddei, 218, 225 

government, national (see also Qadhafi, 
Muammar al), xviii, 172-92; alienation 
from, 89-90; formation of, 36-37; and 
Islam, 102, 104-6; opposition to, 
xxvii-xxviii, 50, 198-205; and Sanusis, 

government, subnational, xviii, 174, 
180-87; attempts to correct deficiencies 
in, 181-87 

governorate councils, 183 

GPC. See General People's Congress 

grand mufti, 202 

Grand Sanusi, 22 

Graziani, Rudolfo, 29 

Great Man-Made River (GMMR), xxvi, 
69, 126, 142, 145-46 

Greece, xvi, xxiii, 6-7, 8, 38, 42, 74, 164; 
and military advisers, 260; pacts with, 
220; as source of military equipment, 
277, 278 

Green Book, The, xxv, xxvi, 47, 49, 50, 
104-5, 113, 124, 191, 206, 212-16; dis- 
placement of sharia, 202; Part I: The 
Solution of the Problem of Democracy, 

212-13; Part II: The Solution of the Eco- 
nomic Problem: ' 'Socialism, " 213-15; Part 
III: The Social Basis of the Third Univer- 
sal Theory, 215-16 

' 'Green March," 223 

"green market," 164 

"Green Revolution," 173 

gross domestic product (GDP), 119-21; 
agriculture, 141-42, 143; decline of, 

Guatemala, 282 
Guinea-Bissau, 223 

Gulf of Sidra, xv, 65, 130; salt flats along, 
136; and territorial waters dispute with 
United States, xv, 136, 228-29, 247, 
252, 253, 260, 263; United States 
downing of Libyan jet fighters over, 57, 
229, 231; United States maneuvers in, 

gypsum mine, 136 

Habre, Hissein, 56, 225, 250-51, 281 

habus, 50 

hadith, 201, 202 

Hafs, Muhammad ibn Abu, 16 

Hafsids, 15-16 

Hague, The, 220, 221 

Hague Convention, 34 

"al Haj," 102 

hajj, 102 

Hamidi, Khuwayldi al, 188, 221, 244, 

Al Haq, 204 
Harare, 233 
harathin, 78 

HARM. See High-Speed Anti-Radiation 

Harpoon missiles, 253 

Harris, Lillian Craig, 191, 205 

Hassan II, King, 223, 281 

Hawker Siddeley, 168 

Hawwaz, Adam Said, 43, 45 

Haze antisubmarine helicopters, 276 

health care, xvi-xvii, 108-9; infant mor- 
tality rate, 71; medical personnel, xvi, 
108; sanitation, 109 

hegira, 99 

Herodotus, 8 

High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles 

(HARMs), 253 
Higher Council for National Guidance, 



Libya: A Country Study 

highjackings (airline), 55 
hijra (hegira), 99 
Hilalians, 14-15 
Hinnebusch, Raymond, 190 
Hizballah (Party of God), 203 
Holy War, 203 
House of Islam, 1 1 

housing, 109-10; nationalization of, 125 
Hun, 113, 262 
Hun Oasis, 44 
Hunaysh, Khalifa, 189 
Hungary, 230 

Huni, Abd al Munim al, 204 
Hussein, King, 281 
hydrology, 68-69 

Idris I, King, xxiv, 216, 227, 274, 279; 
alienation from, 41-42; and the armed 
forces, 239, 241-42; and the budget, 
152; and constitutional revision, 176; 
and Coup of September 1 , 1969, 42-43, 
198; death sentence of, in absentia, 
45-46, 196; designated heir of, 38; and 
the elite, 89; exile of, in Egypt, 43; and 
foreign policy, 216; and independence, 
35, 37, 75; military aid to, 273; and 
military leadership, 244-45; and na- 
tionalism, 41; and petroleum revenues, 
40-41, 86; and Sanusis, 36, 103; and 
society, 81 

Ifriqiya, 11, 13, 15 

ijtihad, 202 

imam, 14 

imazighan, 4 

imperialism, 43, 46 

imports, 163 

incomes, 155; agriculture, 149; construc- 
tion, 149-50; gross domestic product 
(GDP), 148-50; gross national product 
(GNP), 148-49; industry, 149; petro- 
leum products, xxv, 149-50; public 
service sector, 150; rental, 150 

independence, xxiv, 31-32, 34-37, 175; 
proclamation of, 37 

India, 203, 234 

Indian Ocean, 57, 169 

Industrial and Real Estate Bank of Libya, 
161, 162 

industrialization, 122 

industry, 51; and balance of payments, 
138-39; heavy, 137; investment in, 
126-27; nationalization of, 136-37; 

percentage of gross domestic product, 
128, 137; productive capacity ratios, 

Al Inqadh (Salvation), 203 

insurance industry, 162 

INTELSAT. See International Telecom- 
munications Satellite 

International Atomic Energy Agency, 279 

International Court of Justice, 220, 221 

International Covenant on Civil and Po- 
litical Rights, 288 

International Institute for Strategic 
Studies, 268 

International Revolutionary Committee, 

International Telecommunications Satel- 
lite (INTELSAT), 169 

Intruder, 253, 255 

IRA. See Irish Republican Army 

Iran, 55, 131, 228; tankers, 130; and ter- 
rorism, 284; and Westernization, 211 

Iranian Revolution, 281 

Iraq, 55, 216, 230, 233, 268, 281; tankers, 

Irish Republican Army (IRA), xxvi- 
xxvii, 58, 228 

iron ore, 134-36 

irrigation, 144, 145-46 

Ishkal, Hassan, 189 

Islam, xxiii, xxvi, 21, 43-44, 56, 63, 248; 
almsgiving, 100, 108; and Arab- Israeli 
dispute, 46; and Berbers, 77, 102-3; 
calendar, 99, 105; and criminal justice, 
286-87; and cult of saints, 103; duties, 
100; fasting, 102; Fatimids, 13-14; his- 
tory of, 98-99; Islamic unity, 55, 57; 
Kharijites, 12-13, 77; and marriage, 
92; Muammar al Qadhafi's unorthodox 
interpretation of, 50, 200-3; North 
African, 102-3; and political goals, 
104-6; religious courts, 192-94; rules 
of inheritance, 144; Sanusis, xviii, xxiii, 
3, 21-23, 25-27, 29, 31-32, 36-37, 41, 
46, 78, 81-82, 103-4; Shia, 13-14; and 
socialism, 205-6; spread of, in North 
Africa, 10-12, 74; Sufism, 102; Sunni, 
xvii, 13-14; tenets of, 100-102; and 
Third Universal Theory, 208-10; 
values of, 85; and women, 100, 266 

Islamic Call Society (Ad Dawah), 106 

Islamic Conference, 234 

Islamic Development Bank, 234 

Islamic law. See sharia 



Islamic Pan-African Legion, 250, 268 
Islamic socialism, 245 
Islamic University, 104, 196 
Ismaili sect, 14 

Israel, xviii, xxvi, 40, 51, 78, 217, 219, 
224, 273; Arab-Israeli dispute, 43, 46, 
50, 52, 53, 56, 106, 174, 217, 231, 232, 
240, 246, 247, 274, 282; attempts to 
isolate, 223, 226; Egyptian agreement 
with, 275; "holy war" against, 246; 
and June 1967 War, 40; nuclear capa- 
bility of, 234; and October 1973 War, 

Italian language, 80 

Italo-Sanusi War, first (1914-17), 25; sec- 
ond (1923-31), 27-29 

Italy, 15, 23-30, 36, 38, 42, 57, 79, 134, 
202, 208, 226, 277; aid from, 121, 123, 
156; colonial rule, xxiii, xxiii-xxiv, 
23-24, 29-30, 217; cultural impact of, 
75; expulsion of Italians, 46, 124; 
Fourth Shore, 29-31; influence of, on 
social status, 83; investment in hous- 
ing, 110; Libyan investment in, 159; 
and manufacturing, 136; military aid 
from, 275; and military cooperation, 
280; nationalization of Italian assets, 
122, 137; peace treaty, 35; policy of 
refusing to ship arms to Libya, xx; re- 
lations with, 227; and Sanusi order, 
104; settlers from, 30, 36, 142; as 
source of military equipment, xix, 259, 
260, 261, 263, 278; telecommunications 
link, 169; Tenth Army, 33; trade with, 
163; urbanization under, 82 

Jabal al Akhdar, 65, 143-44, 241; rain- 
fall in, 68 
Jabal al Uwaynat, 262 
Jabal Nafusah, 65, 75 
Jabir, Abu Bakr Yunis, 244 
Al Jaghbub, 23 

Jallud, Abdel Salaam, 45, 46, 178, 188, 
227, 234, 244, 276; and student oppo- 
sition, 200 

jamahiriya, xxv, 177, 190 

Jamahiriya Bank (formerly Jumhuriya 
Bank), 161 

Jamahiriya News Agency (J AN A), 188 

Jamahiriya Women's Federation, 96 

Jamahiriyah (newspaper), 189 

JANA. See Jamahiriya News Agency 

janissaries, 18-19 

Japan, 57, 277; refusal to ship arms to 

Libya, xx 
Jerba, 221 
Jerusalem, 8, 54 
Jeune Afrique, 206 

Jews, 8, 9, 13, 19, 40, 54, 78; expulsion 

of, 46, 124; religious courts, 192 
Jifarah Plain, 65, 143-44, 145, 146 
jihad, 23 
Jihad Fund, 106 

Jordan, xxvii, 40, 216, 268; relations 

with, xxvii 
Judaism, 9 

judicial system, xviii, 192-93; breaches 
of judicial norms, 288; colonial rule, 
192; courts, 194-97; criminal code, 

287- 88; criminal justice, 286-89; death 
penalty, 288-89; judges, 194-96; Penal 
Code, 199; penal system, 289; people's 
courts, 288; political prisoners, 197, 

288- 89; prohibition of private legal 
practice, 197; Supreme Council of Ju- 
dicial Authorities, 196; Supreme Court, 
179, 194-96 

Al Jufrah, 262 

Jumhuriya Bank, 161 

jumhuriya (republic), 177 

June 1967 War, 40, 44, 219, 226 

Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), 11, 13, 14 
Karamanli, Ahmad, 19-20 
Karamanli, Yusuf ibn Ali, 20 
Katyusha rocket launcher, truck 

mounted, 266 
Kemal, Mustafa (Ataturk), 24 
Khair ad Din (Barbarossa), 18 
Khaldun, Ibn, 15 
Kharrubi, Mustafa al, 188, 244 
Khartoum, 40, 216, 224, 281 
khouloughlis, 19 
Al Khums, 24, 260 
Knights of St. John of Malta, 16 
Koncar-class missile boats, 278 
Al Kufrah, 23, 29, 126, 142, 145, 146, 

251, 259; airport at, 168; livestock in, 


Al Kufrah Oasis, 69, 262 
Kusa, Musa, 189 
Kutama Berbers, 14 
Kuwait, 40 


Libya: A Country Study 

LA A. See Libyan Arab Airlines 
Labdah (Leptis Magna), 8, 164 
labor force (see also foreign workers), 51 , 
63, 121; manpower shortage, xxv, 73, 
114; nationalization of, 128; public ad- 
ministrators in, 88; rural-to-urban flow 
of, 142; women in, 97 
labor unions, 197-98 
LAFB. See Libyan Arab Foreign Bank 
LAFICO. See Libyan Arab Foreign In- 
vestment Company 
land tenure, 68 
land use, 143-45 

landownership, 144, 215; restriction on 

tribal systems of, 14 
language families: Afro-Asiatic, 4, 76; 

Nilo-Saharan, 78; Semitic, 79 
languages, xvi, 79-81; Arabic, 74, 79-81; 

Arabic, levels of, 79-80; Berber, 75-76; 

English, 81; French, 80; Italian, 80; 

Russian, 81; Tamasheq, 77 
Latin America, 282 
Law No. 5 (1981), 155 
Law No. 47, 289 
Law No. 71 (1972), 199 
"Leader of the Revolution" (Muammar 

al Qadhafi), 48, 173 
League of Arab States, xix, 38, 56, 233 
League of Nations, 31 
Lebanese Shias, 55 

Lebanon, 5, 56, 268; civil war in, 215 
Leptis Magna, 8, 164 
Levant, 5 
Levu, 5 

Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), 168 
Libyan Arab Force, 32, 241 
Libyan Arab Foreign Bank (LAFB), 159, 
161, 162 

Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Com- 
pany (LAFICO), 15, 161, 162, 227 
Libyan Arab Republic, 42, 176 
Libyan Armed Forces, 43 
Libyan Colonization Society, 30 
Libyan Constitutional Union, 204, 229 
Libyan dynasties, 5 
Libyan Information Bureau, 204 
Libyan Liberation Organization, 203-4 
Libyan National Democratic Grouping, 

Libyan National Movement, 204 
Libyan National Organization, 205 
Libyan National Struggle Movement, 204 

Libyan People's Bureau (embassy), in 
London, 228; in United States, 229 

Libyan Petroleum Company (LIPETCO), 

Libyan Revolution. See Coup of Septem- 
ber 1, 1969. 

Libyan World Center for Resistance to 
Imperialism, Zionism, Racism, Reac- 
tion, and Fascism, 189 

Libyanization: of economy, 122-24; of 
the work force, 128 

LIPETCO. See Libyan Petroleum 

"little red book," xxv, 212 

Lockheed, 277 

London, 203, 228, 229, 282 

Lower Libya, 9 

Luther, Martin, 201 

Mi-24 helicopters, 276 
Magariaf, Muhammad Yusuf al, 203 
Maghrabi, Mahmud Sulayman al, 43, 

Maghrib, 3, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 65, 83; 
Berbers in, 77; proposed unification of, 

Maghribi dynasties, 16 
Mahdi, 23 

Mahdi, Sadiq al, 224-25 

Makarios, Archbishop, 220 

Mali, 157, 268; expulsion of Mali 

workers, 73 
Maliki school, 192 

Malta, xvi, 74, 130, 204, 228, 280; rela- 
tions with, 219-20 
Mamluk dynasties, 16 
Manchester, 228 
Mansur, Kamal Hassan, 188 
manufacturing industry, 136-39 
Mao Zedong, xxv, 212 
marabouts, 21, 103 
Marathon Petroleum, 132 
Al Marj, 7 

Marsa al Burayqah, 113, 126, 130, 133, 

137, 260; airport at, 168 
Marsa al Hariqah, 133 
Marseille: telecommunications link, 169 
Marxist-Leninist ideology, 205 
Marxist tenets, 231 
Marzuq, 17 
Mashriq, 3, 218 



Mauritania, 157, 221, 222; foreign 

workers, 220; Libyan aid to, 160 
Mayer, Ann Elizabeth, 202 
Mecca, 22, 23, 99, 100, 102, 216 
Medina, 72, 99 

Mediterranean coast, 5, 8, 64-65, 69, 

168, 247; and fishing, 147 
Mediterranean littoral, 4 
Mediterranean Sea, xvi, xxv, 54, 57, 219, 

250; attacks on Italian fishing boats in, 

227; climatic influence of, 68; fishing, 

menshia, 19 

Middle East, 57, 64, 95, 201, 226, 240, 
246, 280, 282-83; Arabization of, 3; di- 
alects, 80; intervention in, 54; peace 
process, 228, 231; and terrorism, 284 

Middle Kingdom, 5 

military aid, 230-31, 250, 273-74, 

Military Balance, The, 268 

military training, 264-66; compulsory, 
112, 115; and women, 267-68 

Mindanao, 282 

Ministry of Defense, 260 

Ministry of Finance, 152, 161 

Ministry of Interior, 182, 185, 284 

Ministry of Municipalities, 182, 185 

Ministry of Petroleum, 124, 131, 132 

Minoa, 6 

minorities, 216 

Mintoff, Dom, 219 

Misratah, 26, 29, 44, 126, 134, 252, 259 
missiles, FROG, 279; SA-2, 262; SA-3, 
262; SA-5; 253, 276; SA-8 antiaircraft, 
257; SA-5 launch sites, 262; Scud mis- 
siles, 258, 279; Sidewinder missiles, 
253; Styx, 278 
Mobil, 132 

modernization: of rural areas, 85 
monarchy (see also Idris I, King) 37-42, 

Montgomery, Bernard, 33 
Moorish culture, 16 
Moors, 19 
moriscos, 1 9 

Moro National Liberation Front, xxvi 
Morocco, xxvi, 11, 12, 14, 20, 40, 65, 
119, 221, 281; Arabization of, 74; and 
Berber dynasties, 15; economic cooper- 
ation with, 40; expulsion of Moroccan 
workers, 73; and Organization of Afri- 
can Unity, 233; proposed merger with, 

xxvi, 218-19; relations with, 216, 

Moscow, 276 
mosques, 202 

Movement for the Liberation of Angola, 

Mozambique, 223, 232, 233 
Mubarak, Husni, 54, 281 
mudir, 180 

mudiriyat (subdistricts), 180 

muhaafiz (governor), 180 

Muhammad, Prophet, 10, 13, 22, 99, 

105, 201, 202; and tenets of Islam, 100 
Muhammad (later Muhammad al 

Mahdi), 23 
Muhayshi, Umar, 50, 204 
mujtahid, 201 

Mukhtar, Umar al, 28-29 
municipal councils, 183 
Municipal People's Committee, 184 
Municipal Popular Congress, 186 
Muntasir, Umar al, 188 
al murabitun, 103 

Muslim Brotherhood, 106, 199, 203, 211, 

289, 290 
Muslim Call Society, 209 
Muslim Spain (Andalusia), 12, 15, 16 
Muslims. See Islam 
Mussolini, Benito, 27, 30, 31 
mutasarrif, 20-21, 181 
mutasarrifiyat (districts), 180 

Nafi, Uqba ibn, 11 
Namibia, 223 

Nanuchka-class missile corvette, 253 

Napoleonic Code, 192 

Nasr, Sayf an (family), 45 

Nasser, Gamal Abdul, xxiv, 40, 41, 43, 

44, 205-6, 208, 210, 217 
National Agricultural Bank, 142, 161 
National Bank of Libya, 160, 161 
National Command of the Revolutionary 

Forces Command in the Arab Nation, 


National Commercial Bank, 161 
National Congress at Aziza (1920), 26-27 
National Congress Party, 36, 37 
National Constituent Assembly, 37, 175 
National Front, 37 

National Front for the Liberation of 
Angola, 223 


Libya: A Country Study 

National Front for the Salvation of Libya 

(NFSL) 20, 229, 290 
National General Company for Roads, 


National General Congress (formerly 
Arab Socialist Union National Con- 
gress), 187 

National Industrial Contracting Com- 
pany, 139 

National Oil Company (NOC), 124, 130, 
131, 132, 133 

National Organization for Supply Com- 
modities (NOSC), 124, 125 

national security (see armed forces) 

National Security Force, 241, 243 

National Trade Union Federation, 198 

national unity, xxiv, 89, 215 

nationalism, 41; and the Third Univer- 
sal Theory, 208-10 

nationalization, 49, 50, 51; of the eco- 
nomy, 122, 124-28 

NATO. See North Atlantic Treaty Or- 

natural resources: manganese, 134; 
minerals, 121, 134-36; natural gas, 
133-34; salt flats, 136; sodium car- 
bonate, 136 

Natya-class minesweepers, 276 

navy, xix, 259-61, 275; dependence of, 
on foreigners, 260; development of, 
242; headquarters, 260; mission of, 
260; modernization of, 243; personnel, 
260, 261 

N'Djamena, 55, 56, 218, 225, 250 
Neolithic period, 4 
Netherlands, 233 
Neto, Agostinho, 223 
neutrality, 43, 209 

NFSL. See National Front for the Salva- 
tion of Libya. 
Nicaragua, 278 

Niger, 157, 247, 279, 282; expulsion of 
Niger workers, 73; and Fezzan border, 
68; Libyan aid to, 160; Tebu in, 78 

Niger Basin, 4 

Niger River, 8 

Nile Delta, 5 

Nimitz, 253 

NOC. See National Oil Company 
nomads, 12, 15, 18, 83-84; and attempt 
to discourage nomadic life, 75; conver- 
sion of, to Islam, 99 
Nonaligned Movement, 219, 226, 233 

Normans, 15 

North Africa, xxvii, 4, 5-6, 8, 10, 15, 22, 
25, 40, 57, 63, 64, 75, 83, 102, 246, 
282; Arab conquest of, xxiii, 10-12; 
Arab migration to, 74; Arab rule in, 
12-13; Arabs as urban elite in, 12; early 
religious beliefs, 99; economy, 119; and 
Islam, 102-3; relations with, xxvii- 
xxviii; and traditional society, 91; 
workers from, xxv; in World War II, 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization 

(NATO), 219, 226, 273 
North-South dimension, 174, 210, 231, 


NOSC. See National Organization for 

Supply Commodities 
Nouira, Hadi, 221 

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. See 
Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear 

nuclear technology, 234, 279-80; studies 

for power plant, 141 
Numayri, Jaafar an, 56, 203, 224, 226, 

280, 281 
Numidia, 5 

OAPEC. See Organization of Arab 

Petroleum Exporting Countries 
Oasis group, 132 

OAU. See Organization of African Unity 
Occidental Petroleum Corporation, 132 
October 1973 War, 53, 233, 275 
Oea (now Tripoli), 5 
OPEC. See Organization of Petroleum 

Exporting Countries 
Oran, 21 

Orbital Transport-und-Raketen Aktien- 
gesellschaft (OTRAG), 279 

Organization of African Unity (OAU), 
xxvi, 40, 222, 223, 232-33; Liberation 
Committee, 232 

Organization of Arab Petroleum Export- 
ing Countries (OAPEC), xix, 233 

Organization of Petroleum Exporting 
Countries (OPEC), xix, 51, 130, 133, 
159, 222, 233 

Oshkosh Company, 277 

Oto Melara, 278 

OTRAG. See Orbital Transport-und- 
Raketen Aktiengesellschaft 
Ottoman Empire, 27, 103 



Ottoman rule, xxiii, 16, 17-18, 18-21; 

dual judicial system, 192 
Ouadi Doum, 225, 251 
Oueddei, Goukouni, 55-56, 248, 250, 251 
Oujda Treaty, 218, 222 

Pakistan, 36, 168, 282; and military aid, 

262, 275; and nuclear technology, 279 
Palestine, xviii, 8, 44, 56, 208, 253, 268, 

269; aid to, 106; and terrorism, 

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), 

54, 220, 223, 231-32, 282, 284 
Palestinian Arabs, 220, 232 
Palmaria 155mm self-propelled howitzers, 


pan-Arabism. See Arab unity 

pan-Islamism, 206 

Party of Ali, 13 

Party of God (Hizballah), 203 

pasha, 18-19 

Pasha, Enver, 24 

Pax Romana, 8 

Pelt, Adrian, 36, 37, 175 

Penal Code, 199 

Pentapolis (Five Cities), 7 

people's committees, 47, 184-86, 191, 

211; and social change, 88 
people's congresses, 190, 191 
people's courts: trials in absentia in, 


People's Democratic Republic of Yemen 

(South Yemen), 54, 57, 218, 224, 280 
People's Militia (formerly Popular 

Resistance Force), xix, 257, 259, 

264-66, 290 
"people's power," 48, 173, 190 
People's Security Force (formerly Police 

at the Service of the People and the 

Revolution), xix, 285 
Peres, Shimon, 219 

Permanent Maghrib Consultative Com- 
mittee, 220 
Persian Gulf, 131 

Persian Gulf states, xxvii, 119, 151, 268; 

relations with, xxvii 
Petro Libya, 131 

petroleum, xvii, 39, 57-58; agreements 
with concession holders, 133; Arab boy- 
cott, 226, 228; and balance of pay- 
ments, 156-57; barter of, for technical 
assistance, 159; concessions to foreign 

companies, 131; decline in revenues 
from, 122-23, 127-28; development, 
128-31; discovery of, xxiii, xxiv, 121, 
130; and the European market, 128-30; 
nationalization of production of, 132; 
and nonpetroleum economy, 121-22; 
offshore fields, 130-31; pipelines, 133; 
and political goals, 50-52; price policy, 
133; refining capacity, 133; reserves, 
119; royalties and taxes, 155; and so- 
cial change, 86 

Petroleum Law of 1955, 131 

Philippines, xxvi, 56, 282 

Phoenicians, xxiii, 5, 6 

Piedmont, 208 

piracy, 16, 18, 19-20 

PLO. See Palestine Liberation Organi- 

Poland, 230; as source of military equip- 
ment, 273 

police, xix, 240, 241, 242, 284-85; press 
attacks on, 285; rank structure, 285 

Police Affairs Council, 285 

political parties, xviii, 43, 46; abolition 
of, 38 

Pompey, 5 

Popular Front for the Liberation of 

Oman, xxvi 
Popular Front for the Liberation of 

Palestine — General Command, 282 
Popular Front for the Liberation of the 

Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro — 

Polisario, 222 
Popular Resistance Force, 243 
Popular Revolution (1973), 286 
population, xvi, 63, 70-73; birth rate, 71; 

pattern, 71 
Porte, the, 19-20 
ports, xvii, 165-68 
Portugal, 223, 232 
Potsdam Conference (1945), 34 
Preparatory Committee of Twenty-One, 


Presidential Guard, 291 

press, 46, 189-90, 206, 257, 285 

private sector: attempt to eliminate, 

125-26; and nonexploitive private 

property, 214-15 
Prussia, 208 
Ptolemy, 7 
Ptolemy Apion, 7 
Punic, 5-6, 7, 8 

Punic Wars (264-41 and 218-201 B.C.), 5 


Libya: A Country Study 

Qadhafadam, Ahmad, 189 

Qadhafadam (tribe), 189 

Qadhafi, Muammar al, xviii, xxiv-xxviii, 
43, 44-47, 69; abolition of tribal sys- 
tem, 84; alienation of Arab govern- 
ments from, 219; and Arab Socialist 
Union, 186; and Arab unity, 52-55; 
and armed forces, xix; asceticism of, 
255-56; and the constitution, 176; coup 
attempts against, 50, 201, 203, 240, 
257, 290; and criminal justice, 286-89; 
and the Cultural Revolution, 184, 
210-12; and defense spending, 272; 
and direct democracy, 192; and distrust 
of the armed forces, 256-57; and eco- 
nomic independence, 124; and the elite, 
89; and foreign military bases, 239-40; 
and foreign relations, 216-34; and 
growth of Libyan military, 242-43; 
hostility of, toward private sector, 
125-26; internal opposition to, xvii, 
198-203; and Islam, 98-99, 104-6; and 
the judicial system, 193; and labor 
unions, 197-98; and land reform, 144; 
as "Leader of the Revolution," 48, 
173; and Libyan rise to prominence, 
xxiii; and militarization, 246-47; and 
military cooperation with the Soviet 
Union, 276; military opposition to, 
201-3; and national unity, 4; and the 
navy, 259-61; and nuclear develop- 
ment, 234; and nuclear technology, 
279; opposition to, xxvii-xxviii, 49-50, 

198- 205, 240; and Organization of 
African Unity, 233; and paramilitary 
forces, 268; and people's committees, 
184-86; philosophy of, 173-75; and 
police, 285; political ideology of, 205-8; 
quest of, for Third World leadership, 
xxvi, 233; religious opposition to, 199, 
201-3; and Revolutionary Command 
Council, xxiv, 44-46; and revolution- 
ary committees, 187-88; and revolu- 
tionary elite, 87; role of, in 
government, 177-78, 188; and social 
change, 63-64, 85; and status of wom- 
en, 93, 98; student opposition to, 115, 

199- 200; and sub-Saharan Africa, 
55-56; and terrorism, 281-84; and 
Third Universal Theory, 208-10; and 
women in the armed forces, 266-67; 
and youth, 90 

qadi, 12, 194 

Qasr Ahmad, 165-66 
Qasr Bu Hadi, 25 
qawmiya, 217-19 
Al Qayrawan, 13 

Quran, 12, 63, 99, 104-5; and The Green 
Book, 212; influence of, on Muammar 
al Qadhafi, 205-6; interpretation of, 
201-2; language of, 79-81; and sharia, 
193-94; and socialism, 205-6; and 
Third Universal Theory, 209 

Rabat, 222 

racial discrimination, 78, 231 
Radio Cairo, 44 
railroad (planned), 165 
rainfall, 68-69, 120, 144 
Ramadan, 102 
Ras al Hilal, 260 

Ras al Unuf, 126, 132, 133, 137, 138 

Rashid, Harun ar, 13 

RCC. See Revolutionary Command 

Reagan, Ronald, 229 

Reform Committee, 26 

religion (see also Christianity, Islam, Juda- 
ism) xvii, 98-99, 210, 215; courts, 
192-93; and the Third Universal The- 
ory, 210 

Republic of Korea (South Korea): foreign 
workers, 220; housing, 110 

Revolution of 1969 (see also Coup of Sep- 
tember 1, 1969) 85, 96, 178, 198, 214, 
228,233; and foreigners in Libya, 79 

Revolutionary Command Council 
(RCC), xxiv, 42, 44-46, 174, 177-78, 
209, 230, 259, 266; and the Arab So- 
cialist Union, 181; and the constitution, 
176; and Council of Ministers, 177-78; 
and Coup of September 1, 1969, 42-44; 
and courts, 196; and the judicial sys- 
tem, 193; and military leadership, 
244-45; and Muammar al Qadhafi, 
44-46; and people's committees, 
184-86; and police, 284-85; and social 
change, 86-87 

revolutionary committees, 48, 187-88, 
191, 241; and the armed forces, 257; 
military opposition to, 200-1 

revolutionary guards: and the armed 
forces, 257 

Rida, Prince Hasan ar, 38, 42, 42-43, 46 

Roberto, Holden, 223 



Roman Empire, xxiii, 8-9, 164 
Romania, 231 
Rome, 5, 10, 282 
Rommel, Erwin, 33 

Sabha, 34, 69, 136, 251, 259, 263, 282; 

airport at, 168; courts, 194 
Sabratah, 5, 169 

Sadat, Anwar as, 52, 53-54, 224, 275, 

Sadawi, Bashir as, 37, 38 

SADR. See Saharan Arab Democratic 

Sadr, Imam Musa, 55 
Safar, Suleiman, 19 
Sahara Bank (formerly Banco di Sicilia), 


Sahara Desert, xvi, 4, 65; climatic in- 
fluence of, 68 

Saharan Arab Democratic Republic 
(SADR), 222, 233 

Saharan Islamic state (proposed), 55 

Sahel, 23, 247 

Said, Ubaidalla, 14 

Saladin, 16 

salat (daily prayer), 100 
Sandhurst, 44 
sanjaks (subprovinces), 20 
Sanusi, Abdullah Abid as, 45 
Sanusi, Muhammad ibn Ali as, 21-23 
Sanusi, Muhammad Idris as (later King 
Idris I), 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31-32, 35 
Sanusi Army (Libyan Arab Force), 241 
Sanusis, xviii, xxiii, 21-23, 46, 103-4; 
among Tebu, 78; and first Italo-Sanusi 
war, 25, 26, 27; King Idris I as head 
of, 36-37, 41; resistance of, to colonial 
rule, xxiii; and second Italo-Sanusi war, 
29; and tribal system, 81-82; and 
World War II, 31-32 
Sarir, 69, 126, 130, 142, 145, 146 
Sarra Triangle, 30 

Saudi Arabia, xxvii, 40, 55, 90, 216, 273; 

relations with, xxvii 
sawm (fasting), 100 
Sayf an Nasr, 34, 37 
Scud missiles, 258, 279 
secret service, 240 

Secretariat of Communications, 140, 168 
Secretariat of Dams and Water 

Resources, 69 
Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, 288 

Secretariat of Interior, xix, 289 
Secretariat of Planning, 153 
Secretariat of the Treasury, 152 
Secretary of the Internal Security Author- 
ity, 179 

security, internal, 240-41, 284-91; and 
crime, 286; and protection of Mu- 
ammar al Qadhafi, 290-91; repression 
of dissent, 289-90; threat to, from for- 
eign workers, xxv 

Seko, Mobutu Sese, 281 

Selassie, Haile, 232 

Senate, 38, 175 

Senegal, 282 

Sfar, Rachid, 221 

Sforza, Carlo, 35 

shahadah, 100 

sharia, 12, 24, 102, 192; applications to 
contemporary law, 193-94; as basis of 
legal system, 104; and criminal justice, 
286-87; and judicial system, 105; 
Maliki school, 102; Qadhafi interpre- 
tation of, 201-2 

Sharia Court of Appeals, 194 

Sharif, Ahmad ash, 23, 24, 25 

Shell, 131, 132 

Shia caliphate, 14 

Shia Islam, 14 

Shiat Ali (Party of Ali), 13 

Shishonk I, 5 

shura (principle of consultation), 209 

shurfa, 14 

shurtah, 284 

Siai-Marchetti, 278 

Sicily, 14, 15 

Sidi Barrani, 33 

As Sidr, 133 

Signal Corps, 42 

Sinan Pasha, 18 

Sirtica, 9, 25, 65 

Sirtica Basin, 130 

slaves, 19 

socialism (see also The Green Book), xxiv, 
xxv, xxv-xxvi, 85, 176, 205-8, 213-15; 
and declining oil revenues, 127 

Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jama- 
hiriya, xv, xxv, 47-50 

society: divorce, 92, 93; dowry, 92; elite, 
83-87, 89, 180, 245; family, 91-93; 
marriage, 92, 94-95; middle class, 
85-89; patrilineal kinship, 91; poly- 
gyny, 92; and social change, 63-64, 
85-91, 95; social mobility in, 89; social 


Libya: A Country Study 

welfare, 107-8; status of occupations in, 
82; structure of, 81-85, 86; tribal basis 
of, 83-84; units in, 83; young elite, 86; 
and youth, 90 

Soko G-2AE Galebs, 263 

Somali National Salvation Front, 282 

South Africa, 232 

South Korea. See Republic of Korea 

South Yemen. See People's Democratic 
Republic of Yemen 

Southeast Asia, 282 

Southern Libya. See Fezzan 

Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), 232 

Soviet Union, 203, 217, 218, 247; and Big 
Four, 35; military advisers from, 230, 
253, 260; military aid from, 159, 250, 
262; and military training, 263; and 
nuclear technology, 234, 279; and Pots- 
dam Conference, 34; relations with, 38, 
46, 174, 222, 230-31; as source of mili- 
tary equipment, xix-xx, xxvii, 54-55, 
239-40, 243, 246, 253, 258, 259, 260, 
261, 272, 273, 274, 275-76, 280; and 
Third Universal Theory, 209 

spahis, 19 

Spain, 5, 12, 17, 18; fishing agreements 
with, 147; investment in housing, 110 

SPLA. See Sudanese People's Liberation 

S.S. Queen Elizabeth II, 54 
standard of living, 151 
Steadfastness and Confrontation Front, 

Steyr armored personnel carrier, 278 
student opposition, 115, 199-200 
sub-Saharan Africa, xxv, 23, 55-56, 78, 
223, 232 

Sudan, xxvi, xxvii, 4, 8, 17, 19, 23, 52, 
203, 216, 268; alliance with Egypt, 224; 
ancient, 14; and Arab unity, 52, 218; 
military agreement with, 281-82; pro- 
posed merger with, xxvi, 218; Tebu in, 

Sudanese Pople's Liberation Army 

(SPLA), 224 
Suez Canal, 33, 130 
Suez Canal crisis, 219 
Sufi, 21, 22 
sulfur, 136 
sunna, 202 

Sunni Aghlabids, 14 

Sunni caliph, 14 

Sunni Islam, 13-14, 77, 105 

Sunni ulama, 15 

Supreme Council of Judicial Authorities, 

as suq al khadra (green market), 164 
Surt, 27, 137, 145-46, 253, 259, 279 
Susah, 7 

Suwaythi, Ramadan as, 26 

Syria, xxvi, 40, 54, 239; military aid to, 
262, 280; and OAPEC, 233; and Oc- 
tober 1973 War, 53; proposed merger 
with, xxvi, 52, 55, 218, 218-19, 239; 
relations with, 216; and terrorism, 284 

Syrian Baath Party, 205, 268 

Tanks, T-54, 250, 268; T-55, 250, 268, 

281; T-62, 275 
Tajura, 234 

Talhi, Jadallah Azzuz at, 188 
Tamasheq, 77 
Tanzania, 56, 232, 247 
taqlid, 202 
tariqa, 103 

taxation: of foreign petroleum companies, 
155; income tax, 155; structure of, 155 

Tazirbu, 126, 145 

Tebu, 55, 78 

Tebu Muslim tribe, 225 

terrorism, xix, xxvi-xxvii, 174-75, 240, 
281-84; attacks on airports in Rome 
and Vienna, 282; bombing of Berlin 
night club, 229, 254; and expulsion of 
Libyan diplomats from the United 
States, 229; hijacking of TWA airliner, 
253; against Libyan exiles, 281 ; and re- 
lations with the United States and 
Western Europe, 56-57; and Western 
restrictions on sale of military equip- 
ment, 276-77 

Teuchira (later Arsinoe, present-day 
Tukrah), 7 

Texaco, 132 

Thatcher, Margaret, 228 

Third Universal Theory, xviii-xix, 173, 
175, 202, 208-10, 217, 231, 256 

Third World, xviii, xxvi, 174, 175, 202, 
209, 222, 228, 233, 234; alienation of, 
175; and crime, 286; intervention in, 
217; neutrality, 209; and nuclear tech- 
nology, 280 

"Three Cities," 5 

Tibesti Massif, xvi, 65, 251 

tifinagh, 8 



Tobruk, 24, 33, 133, 165, 239, 241, 247, 

259, 260, 275; airport at, 168 
Togo, 282 

Tokyo Declaration on International Ter- 
rorism, 277 
topography, xvi 
tourism, 164 

trade, xvii, 162-63; deficit, 157-58; re- 
strictions, 88. See also economy. 

trade unions, 46 

traditional handicrafts, 140 

Trans World Airlines (TWA), 253, 282 

transportation, xvii, 164-68; civil avia- 
tion, 68; merchant fleet, 168; motor ve- 
hicles, 165; ports, 165-68 

Treaty of Friendship (1953), 273 

Treaty of Lausanne (1912), 24 

Treaty of Lausanne (1923), 27 

Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear 
Weapons, 234, 279 

Tripartite Alliance, 224, 280 

Tripoli, xv, 3, 15, 29, 54, 203, 224, 225, 
228, 239, 266, 275, 289; agriculture, 
145, 146; air base at, xvii, 239, 262; 
airport at, 168; ancient period, xxiii, 
5, 14; army base at, xvii, 259; British 
administration, 34; burning of United 
States embassy in, 229; as capital, 38, 
175; capture of, by Italy, 24; and Coup 
of September 1, 1969, 42; courts, 194; 
harbor, 165; housing, 110; Jews in, 78; 
and June 1967 War, 40; liberation of, 
33; and manufacturing, 136; navy com- 
mand headquarters at, 260; Organiza- 
tion of African Unity conference at, 
232-33; Ottoman rule, 17, 18, 19-20; 
population, 63; school enrollment, 113; 
telecommunications link, 169; United 
States air strike on, 229, 254-55; ur- 
banization, 71-72 

Tripoli Charter, 218 

Tripoli University (later Al Fatah Univer- 
sity), 200 

Tripolis (Three Cities), 5 

Tripolitania, 3, 20-21, 22, 36-37, 40, 41, 
245; and Almohad empire, 15; ancient 
period, 5-6; Berbers in, 77; British ad- 
ministration of, 33; conquest of, by 
Arabs, 11-12; dialects, 80; geography, 
65-66; Hilalian impact on, 15; and in- 
dependence, 31, 32, 36-37; and Islam, 
12; and Italian rule, 24-29; and 
Maghrib, 220; mineral resources, 

134-36; and Moorish culture, 16; and 
national unity, 40, 41; and Ottoman 
rule, 18, 20-21; and petroleum, 130; 
and piracy, 20; population, 71; and 
Revolutionary Command Council 
membership, 245; Roman rule, 8-10; 
and Sanusi order, 103; and Tunisian 
border, 68; and United Nations, 34, 
35; and World War II, 31, 32 

"Tripolitanian Nation," 26 

Tuareg, xvi, 8, 76, 77, 282; and mar- 
riage, 92 

Tumart, Ibn, 15 

Tunis, 15, 16, 18, 20, 54 

Tunisia, xxvi, 18, 24, 34, 65, 219, 268; 
Arabization, 74; domestics, 97; econ- 
omy, 119; expulsion of Tunisian 
workers, 73, 157; fishing agreements, 
147; foreign workers, 220, 221; and in- 
surgent groups, 282; and Organization 
of Arab Unity, 40; and petroleum, 130; 
proposed merger with, xxvi, 54-55, 
218, 218-19, 220-21, 222, 239; rela- 
tions with, 216, 221; and Tripolitanian 
border, 68 

Turayki, Abdul Salaam, 204 

Turkey, 24, 25, 38, 42; foreign workers, 
220; housing, 110 

TWA. See Trans World Airlines 

Tyre. See Lebanon 

UAA. See United African Airlines 

Ubaydi, Abdallah, 49 

Uganda, 56, 223-24, 256, 277; invasion 

of, by Tanzania, 247, 248 
ulama, 21, 22, 201 
Umar, Miftah al Usta, 188 
Umar al Mukhtar, 28-29 
Umar al Mukhtar Club, 37 
Umayyad caliph of Damascus, 12 
Umayyads, 13 
Umm Durman, 281 
Umma Bank (formerly Banco di Roma), 


UN. ^ United Nations 
United African Airlines (UAA), 168 
United Arab Emirates, 131 
United Kingdom of Libya, xxiv, 37 
United Nations, xix, 34-37, 231-32; aid 
from, 156; and the economy, 120; Food 
and Agriculture Organization, 146, 
232; General Assembly, 175; and 


Libya: A Country Study 

human rights, 288-89; peacekeeping 
forces, 232; population estimates, 
70-71; report to, on prisons, 289; Secu- 
rity Council, 232; Technical Assistance 
Board, 38-39 

United Nations General Assembly, 
34-37, 175 

United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation 
Treaty. See Treaty of Non-Proliferation 
of Nuclear Weapons 

United States, xxvi, xxvi-xxvii, 35, 36, 42, 
134, 218; aid from, 121, 123, 156; air 
strike on Benghazi and Tripoli, xxvii, 
201, 216-17, 233, 263; and Chadian 
war, 209; embassy, storming of, 57; 
evacuation of military bases, 274, 275; 
freeze of Libyan assets, 159; hostile en- 
counters with, 240, 247, 252-55, 260; 
Libyan students in, 114, 211, 234; liq- 
uidation of investments in Libya, 159; 
maneuvers in Gulf of Sidra, 229, 276; 
military aid from, 273; military bases, 
xxiv, 38, 40, 46, 239, 243, 245, 273, 
274; and nuclear technology, 279; and 
piracy, 22; policy of refusing to ship 
arms to Libya, xx, 277; relations with, 
42, 56-57, 174, 222, 226, 228-29; as 
source of military equipment, 259; ter- 
ritorial waters dispute with, 228-29; ter- 
rorism against, 56-57, 240, 284; and 
Third Universal Theory, 209; trade 
with, 163; workers in Libya, 79 

United States Air Force, 269 

United States Arms Control and Disar- 
mament Agency, 257, 273, 276 

United States Central Intelligence 
Agency, 203 

United States Department of State, 262, 

United States Geological Survey, 134 
United States Sixth Fleet, 252-53, 277 
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 

University of Benghazi, 106, 200 
University of Libya, 113, 209 
Upper Egypt, 200 
Upper Libya, 9 

Uqba ibn Nafi Air Base (formerly Wheelus 

Air Base), 262, 263 
uranium, 234, 279 
urban social structure, 86 
urbanization, 71-71, 82-83; attempts to 

stem, 85; and kinship ties, 95 

Urutu armored vehicles, 278 

Vandal period, 10 

ventimilli, 30 

Vienna, 205, 282 

vilayet (province), 20 

Volcano, The (Al Burkan), 204 

Volpi, Count Giuseppe, 27 

Wadi Ajal, 8 

Wadi ash Shati, 121, 134 

wadis, 69 

Wahda Bank, 161 

wali (governor general), 20 

Warsaw Pact, 275, 276 

Washington, 229 

water resources, 69, 126 

water supply, 120 

Wavell, Archibald, 33 

West Africa, 23 

Western Europe, xvi, 232, 233, 234; re- 
lations with, 226-28; telecommunica- 
tions link, 169 

Western Libya. See Tripolitania 

Western Sahara, 220, 221, 222, 223, 226 

Western world, xxvi, 56-57, 174, 175, 
266; secular courts, 192 

Wheelus Air Base, 38, 46, 239, 273, 274 

women: in the armed forces, 98, 266-68; 
and compulsory military training, 112, 
190; and conscription, 264; and edu- 
cation, 110, 113; emancipation of, 96; 
equality for, 96; and feminist organi- 
zations, 96; and Islam, 100; in the labor 
force, 95, 96, 97-98; literacy rate of, 
111; and marriage, 92-93; military 
training of, 190; participation of, in po- 
litical system, 191; role of, 215; status 
of, 63-64, 91, 95-98; status of, among 
Tuareg, 77; suffrage, 96, 176; and 
traditional dress, 96; in traditional so- 
ciety, 93-95; and university enroll- 
ment, 114 

Women's General Union. See Jamahiriya 
Women's Federation 

workers, 214; in Arab Socialist Union, 
182; and employers, relationship be- 
tween, 214; participation of, in 
management, 151, 198 

"workers' committees," 125 

World Bank, 152; population estimate, 70 



World War I, 30 

World War II, xxiii, 32-33, 241 

Xingu transports, 278 

Yathrib. See Medina 

Yugoslavia, 230; military aid from, 262, 
275; as source of military equipment, 
261, 263, 274, 277, 278; technical as- 
sistance from, 159 

Yunis, Abu Bakr, 188 

Az Zahf al Akhdar (The Green March), 

189-90, 257 
Zaire, 222, 226, 279, 281, 282 
zakat (almsgiving), 100 
Zaltan, 39 
Zambia, 232 
Zawilah, 13 
zawiya, 22, 103 
Az Zawiyah, 133, 259, 263 
Zimbabwe, 223, 233 
Zionism {see also Israel), 46, 231-32 
Zirids, 14, 15 

Zlitan Women Teachers' Institute, 268 
Zuwarah, 133, 138, 147, 211 
Az Zuwaytinah, 133 


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